Afghanistan is preparing to carry out a coronavirus vaccination campaign that has received $US112 million ($144 million)

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Afghanistan is preparing to carry out a coronavirus vaccination campaign that has received $US112 million ($144 million) in support from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX program.

Key points:

  • A Taliban spokesperson said the group would “support and facilitate” the program
  • The Afghan Health Minister said it would take six months to get the vaccines
  • COVAX is a global scheme to vaccinate people in poorer countries

The nation’s immunisation rollout will have to take place amid relentless violence in the country that is occurring despite the Government and Taliban insurgents opening peace talks in September.

Announcing the COVAX funding, an Afghan health official said the program would cover 20 per cent of the country’s 38 million-strong population.

A woman wearing a headscarf receives a stack of flat bread from a man who is wearing a face mask as he hands out rations.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group would “support and facilitate” the vaccination drive conducted via health centres.

And officials do not believe insurgents will target vaccine teams as they will not be going door to door.

The COVAX program is a global scheme to vaccinate people in poor and middle-income countries against coronavirus.

It aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of this year to 20 per cent of the most vulnerable people in 91countries.

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 54,854 infections and 2,390 deaths, but experts say cases are significantly under-reported 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, Ghulam Dastagir Nazari, head of the Expanded Program on Immunisation at Afghanistan’s health ministry said.

“The AstraZeneca brand which is manufactured in India will arrive soon in Afghanistan,” Dr Nazari said, adding the Government was only concerned about the WHO approval of the vaccine.

He said the pre-qualification process had already started.

An Indian Government source confirmed 500,000 doses had been set aside for Afghanistan and another official said the first batch of vaccines would land in February, though Kabul was yet to adopt the protocols to administer them.

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have also said they would finance vaccines for another 20 per cent of the population by the end of 2022, health ministry spokeswoman Masouma Jafari said.

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