Rwanda says begins COVID-19 vaccinations

The word "COVID-19" is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration taken November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda said on Sunday it has commenced COVID-19 vaccinations with limited supplies of vaccines acquired through unnamed international partners and said the programme had started with frontline healthcare workers.

The central African country has been battling a surge in infections of COVID-19 which forced the government to re-impose a lockdown last month in the capital Kigali.

Authorities banned movement in and out of the city, except for essential services and for tourists.

In a tweet, Rwanda’s ministry of health said the country’s National Vaccination Program had begun “vaccinating high-risk groups, notably frontline healthcare staff, with WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines acquired through international partnerships in limited quantities”.

The initial vaccination phase, the ministry said, will be followed by a wider roll out with supplies secured via the World Health Organization’s COVAX scheme to facilitate vaccine access by poor and middle-income countries.

Additional supplies would also be secured via the African Union (AU) window. The AU has secured more than 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for its member states.

So far Rwanda has recorded about 17,000 cases of COVID-19 and 236 deaths.

Writing by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise