Gov’t races against time as COVID vaccines near expiry date

Gov’t races against time as COVID vaccines near expiry date
George Awzenio Legge, the National Expanded Programme on Immunization Manager speaking during an interview in his office at the Ministry of Health in his office on Tuesday (photo credit: Sheila Ponnie/City Review)

South Sudan is staring at yet another possible setback with just a day remaining for the second batch of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to expire.

The health ministry officials have told The City Review that a total of 110 vaccines are still unused in Eastern and Central Equatoria states and that other states are yet to update the Ministry of Health (MoH) on the progress of inoculation.

Speaking to The City Review yesterday, the National Expanded Programme on Immunisation Manager George Awzenio Legge exuded confidence that the vaccination program had been well administered in some parts of the country.

He said the vaccines that were distributed to Warrap, Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal States have all been consumed.

“In Lakes State, there are few remaining vaccines that we are expecting to finish today (Tuesday). What we have now in the Central and Eastern Equatoria States are 110 vaccines according to this morning’s update from the two states,” Legge stressed.

However, Legge said they were yet to get a full report about the ongoing vaccine due to lack of access to information in some places.

 “I am sure if there is any balance of the vaccines, it will be like 1 or 2 percent of the total vaccines but the work is going on well so there [is] no worry that the vaccine will not get finished. We are sure the vaccines will get finished today or tomorrow,” he explained.

Legge said there are challenges of communication in Yei County, adding that they have been trying to communicate with the team in Yei so that the vaccines could be sent to Wau where there is a higher uptake.

Bridging gap

“It has not been possible due to the heavy rainfall that has made it difficult for people to access the vaccination centers and communication sometimes is a problem due to poor network,” he said.

“So somebody in Lasu and Morobo cannot access network, there is no good network [and] we are now waiting to see what will happen and in case that vaccine is not finished then they will be returned to Juba,” Legge.

“We are assuring the public that the vaccine is expiring on September 30, 2021.”

The Ministry of Health (MoH) and WHO are considering taking a possible solution to overcome the challenges hindering the vaccination.

In a previous recommendation given on September 20, 2021, the Ministry of Health has been urged to ‘‘operationalize the expansion of the vaccination program to all the states to solve the issue of costs, logistics, and training’’.

MOH is also urged to ‘‘amend the policy on having an armed National Security guards providing armed escort of the vaccines as well as transporting them to the vaccination sites’’.

“They decided that there should be some direct in-depth discussions between the Ministry of Health and donors for funding activities that are needed to be increased,” the statement from the program partly reads.

According to the latest update released by the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization (WHO) on the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination, 10 states, 34 counties, and 78 health facilities have been reached with the vaccines.