"The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines happens at a critical time as Somalia is now experiencing a new wave of the epidemic. It can be contained if all countries stand together, Somalia included," the Health Minister Fawziya Abikar Nur said.
"I call on all health workers and people at high risk who have been prioritized to receive vaccines from this first batch, so we can protect our health workforce, other frontline workers, and high-risk people."
Somalia has secured enough vaccines from the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) to vaccinate at least 20 percent of the population. It is also in the process of assessing ways of providing vaccines for more people.
"We have strong systems in place to carry out immunization campaigns and enable the safe delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines to frontline workers. This first roll-out of the vaccination will be a landmark step in Somalia's fight against COVID-19," Nur said.
Rwanda is one of the first countries in Africa to include refugees in their national COVID-19 vaccination program.
From Feb. 1 to 22, authorities reported 1,432 new cases and 76 deaths in Mogadishu city alone. This has been the largest increase in a week since May 2020 when the epidemic peaked at between 500-600 cases a week.
"We are committed to supporting the government of Somalia to reach out to the most vulnerable groups and frontline workers to ensure that spread of the virus is contained, and that Somali people recover quickly from this pandemic and the country continues making progress towards peace and stability," said the UN Special Representative for Somalia James Swan.
To create awareness among families on the importance of being vaccinated against the virus, social mobilizers will be deployed to communities to encourage the use of the COVID-19 vaccine.
They will also reinforce the importance of continuing COVID-19 prevention measures, including washing hands frequently, wearing face masks, and observing physical distancing.