KABUL: The World Health Organization’s COVAX programme has pledged US$112 million for COVID-19 vaccines to reach 20 per cent of Afghanistan’s population, an Afghan health official said on Tuesday (Jan 26).
The COVAX programme is a global scheme to vaccinate people in poor and middle income countries against the coronavirus. It aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021 to cover 20 per cent of the most vulnerable people in 91 poor- and middle-income countries.
Afghanistan's Deputy Health Minister Waheed Majroh told journalists it was going to take six months to get the vaccines but authorities were in discussions to get them earlier.
Afghanistan has registered a total of 54,854 infections and 2,390 deaths - but experts say the actual numbers are much higher and are underreported due to low testing and limited access to medical facilities in the war torn country.
Aside from COVAX, the country has also received a pledge of 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India, Dr Ghulam Dastagir Nazari, head of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation at Afghanistan's health ministry told Reuters.
"The AstraZeneca brand which is manufactured in India will arrive soon in Afghanistan," Nazari said, adding that the government was only concerned about the WHO approval of the vaccine and that the pre-qualification process has already started.
The vaccination programme will take place amidst continuing fighting between Taliban and government forces and rising attacks on media and rights campaigners, but Nazari said he believed the insurgent group would not oppose the campaign because it would not go door-to-door.
"Previously the Taliban opposed polio vaccination in their controlled areas because of its door-to-door process; the Taliban did not oppose any campaign being done from health centres," he said.
The Taliban spokesman did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment.