Yemen on Wednesday received 360,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses.
The shipment of 360,000 Made-in-India COVID-19 vaccines that arrived in Yemen, as part of the first batch of 1.9 million doses it will receive throughout the year, is a "game changer" and a "milestone" in the fight against the pandemic in the country, health officials have said.
Yemen on Wednesday received 360,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped via the COVAX Facility, a partnership between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF said in a statement.
The AstraZeneca vaccines are licensed and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and will enable health workers and other priority populations vulnerable to COVID-19 to be protected against the virus, it said.
The 360,000 doses arrived with 13,000 safety boxes and 1,300,000 syringes that are critical for the safe and effective roll-out of the vaccination campaign. This first batch is part of 1.9 million doses that Yemen will initially receive throughout 2021.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had tweeted: "Arrival in Aden. Made in India vaccines land in Yemen," with the hashtag "VaccineMaitri".
UNICEF Representative Philippe Duamelle and WHO Representative Dr Adham Ismail took delivery of the vaccines in Aden, together with the Minister of Health and Population Dr Qasim Buhaibeh, and the Deputy Minister of Public Health and Population Dr Ali Alwaleedi.
"The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine doses is a critical moment for Yemen," Duamelle said.
"As COVID-19 continues to claim lives around the world, Yemen now has the capacity to protect those most at risk, including health workers, so that they can safely continue to provide life-saving interventions for children and families. Vaccines work, vaccines save lives, now let's start getting people vaccinated," he added.
Ismail said the shipment represents an important step in the fight against COVID-19 in Yemen.
"It will help save lives, including those at highest risk of serious disease, and will help protect the health system. These safe and effective vaccines will be a game changer, but for the foreseeable future we must continue wearing masks, physically distance and avoid crowds," he said.
Rehan Hafiz, Senior Country Manager Yemen, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance expressed delight that Sana'a has received its first COVAX vaccine doses.
"We look forward to the launch of the vaccination campaign. Thanks to the work of the Government of Yemen and of the COVAX partners, and with the support of our donors, we are now able to protect our most vulnerable populations," Hafiz said, adding that their work is only beginning, but the arrival of the first COVAX COVID-19 doses is a major milestone for Yemen.
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) - working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, as well as civil society organisations, vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others.
Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric also told reporters during the daily press briefing that Yemen received 360,000 vaccine doses shipped via the COVAX Facility.
"These vaccines, licensed and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, will enable health workers and other vulnerable populations to be protected against the virus," he said.
Dujarric said the first batch of vaccines along with 13,000 safety boxes and 1,300,000 syringes are critical for the safe and effective roll-out of the vaccination campaign in the country.
Nearly 2 million doses are expected for Yemen this year, he said.