The United States Government has donated 151,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to Sierra Leone to help accelerate the current COVID-19 vaccination drive in the country.
The United States has made this donation through the COVAX facility, a global coalition co-led by the WHO, Gavi, the Global Vaccines Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, and others on the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to countries regardless of their income.
This brings to 838 000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which have been received by Sierra Leone under the COVAX facility since the country rolled out COVID-19 vaccinations in March this year.
Dr. Austin Demby, Minister of Health and Sanitation, said “The Government appreciates the substantial support of donated vaccines from the Government of the United States. This will contribute immensely towards accomplishing vaccine equity in Sierra Leone and the Government will make certain that more people will be vaccinated in the shortest possible time”.
The donation of Johnson & Johnson vaccines to Sierra Leone is part of the U.S. government’s global vaccine-sharing strategy, which aims to support countries most affected by the pandemic and is part of the broader support by the U.S. Government to help prevent further spread of COVID-19.
“We are proud to support COVAX’s commitment to rapidly and equitably save lives and bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. The delivery of 151,200 Johnson & Johnson doses to Sierra Leone is an important step toward that goal,” said USA Ambassador to Sierra Leone, H.E. David Reimer.
The COVAX Facility has been instrumental in supporting low and middle-income countries to access COVID-19 vaccines and supporting governments with the development of national vaccination plans, cold chain infrastructure, and related operational equipment, logistical materials, and medical supplies to facilitate smooth implementation of vaccination activities.
Through this facility, Sierra Leone has so far received the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines, which arrived in March and August. These vaccines, together with the consignment of vaccines received through another arrangement by the Government of Sierra Leone, have helped reach more than 264,256 adults with the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines, while more than 64,749 have since received their second doses as of the first week of September 2021. This continuous flow of vaccines into the country is welcome as it helps to sustain the current intensified vaccination drive, which has also opened vaccination to all adults above the age of 18 years.
“We are delighted to see U.S.-donated J&J doses arriving in Sierra Leone. This shipment will protect COVID-19 for over 150,000 people, helping to stem the tide. COVAX is committed to ending the acute phase of the pandemic, and the strong support of the United States Government is crucial in getting us there.” Patience Musanhu, Senior Country Manager.
The Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccines have been approved by the WHO as effective in protecting people against COVID-19. This arrival of the vaccines to Sierra Leone is timely as demand for vaccines is steadily increasing in Sierra Leone
With less than 2 percent of eligible adults currently being fully vaccinated in Sierra Leone, these additional vaccines will serve to fill in the current gaps. Within the coming weeks, the United States Government, through COVAX dose-sharing mechanism, intends to deliver another batch of COVID-19 vaccines to the country.
“Over the past one month, we have seen remarkable improvement and momentum at all levels of strategic partnership and cooperation in enhancing vaccine equity, national strategies in vaccine administration, and increased interest in vaccine uptake by the eligible members of the public. This is an important moment to strengthen our collaboration and support to the government to reach the vaccination targets and goals and protect the population against this pandemic”, said Dr. Steven V. Shongwe, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone.
UNICEF is leading the procurement and delivery of the various COVID-19 vaccines reaching Sierra Leone through the COVAX facility. Further to this logistics support, UNICEF continues to support the Government of Sierra Leone’s vaccine rollout exercise through planning, cold chain management, demand generation, and capacity building of health workers.
“The unprecedented COVID-19 crisis can only be tackled when the world acts together as one,” said UNICEF Representative, (acting in charge) Ms. Liv Elin Indreiten. “UNICEF is therefore proud to be part of this global partnership to help people across Sierra Leone receive the vaccines and remain protected from serious illness or death due to COVID-19.”
COVAX has built a diverse portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations and is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX Facility participants supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC. The United States is the largest contributor to COVAX.
Officials from the government of Sierra Leone, the U.S. Embassy, United Nations Agencies including the World Health Organization and UNICEF, and several health developments partners, attended the ceremonial handover of the vaccines to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.