Malaria Consortium has recorded the highest COVID-19 vaccination coverage rates in South Sudan in their work supporting the National Ministry of Health’s roll out of the vaccine through the Health Pooled Fund (HPF) Programme in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, South Sudan.
South Sudan received its first doses of the Oxford-Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine in March last year, via the COVAX Facility, a global partnership and mechanism established in 2020 for the pooled procurement and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Initially, 132,000 doses were made available and prioritised for those deemed most at risk; healthcare workers and persons aged 65 years and above.
According to figures from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since April 2021, South Sudan has been supplied with just over two million vaccines. The country has a population of over 11 million people and data shows that just over half of these vaccines have been administered, with only five percent of the population fully vaccinated.
Malaria Consortium and sub-partner HealthNet TPO have been working with the National Ministry of Health and assisted by the State Ministry of Health and the County Health Department to ensure the involvement of all health partners working on vaccine delivery in Northern Bahr El Ghazal state is coordinated, especially at the community level.
Coverage rates in Northern Bahr El Ghazal state, where Malaria Consortium is leading on the distribution, have been identified by the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 update for South Sudan as having the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate across all ten states, with 11 percent of the state’s population fully vaccinated – more than double the country’s fully vaccinated figures.
As of March 2022, the vaccination campaign in the state had reached close to 27,000 people, which was provided on a voluntary basis, free of charge with all those receiving the vaccine consenting prior to being vaccinated. Vaccines are being administered to all eligible people, including doctors, nurses, community-based health workers, social mobilisers and members of the population over the age of 65.
Denis Mubiru, Malaria Consortium South Sudan Country Director commented:
“Malaria Consortium is proud of our achievements and are committed to ensuring greater access to the COVID-19 vaccine. This will reduce new infections and corresponding increases in morbidity and mortality due to the disease, improving health outcomes of communities in these challenging times.”
The project was conducted in two phases, the first beginning in June 2021 with a COVAX vaccination site in Aweil State Hospital in Aweil Centre County and the second phase commencing in November 2021 with an additional five health facilities; Malek Alel PHCU, Panthou PHCC, Tiar-aliet PHCU in Aweil South County and Aroyo PHCC and Barmayen PHCC in Aweil Centre County. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was also introduced in the country in the second phase.
Drawing on experience and partnerships developed from almost two decades of working on health initiatives in South Sudan, Malaria Consortium enlisted support from Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), who supported vaccination efforts with physical resources, including tents and electrical power, UNICEF who supported with sensitising and mobilising community members around Aweil Town and WHO who provided their assistance coordinating with the State Ministry of Health.
Despite positive progress in South Sudan, to achieve the goal of 70 percent vaccine coverage in all countries by mid-2022, as outlined in the WHO Strategy to Achieve Global Vaccination, a funding gap of US$16 billion will first need to be overcome.