Yemen to Get First COVID-19 Shots by March

Yemen expects a first batch of 2.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by March through the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility; agencies involved have said.

“The government of Yemen has applied to the COVAX initiative to cover the initial needs of 23% of the population of Yemen, about 14 million doses;” Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF’s representative in Yemen told Reuters.

“A first allocation of 2.3 million doses is available and should be available by end-February, beginning of March, depending on the suppliers’ availability of vaccines.”

Vaccines for majority of Yemen

COVAX is co-led by the GAVI alliance, which secures vaccines for poor countries, the World Health Organization; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Yemen will also receive the AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX; as this can be in use in the existing cold chain infrastructure; Duamelle said.

The aim is to vaccinate 70% of Yemen’s population. The health ministry for Yemen’s legitimate government on Friday said it had markedly applied to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) for it to finance vaccines for 50% of the population.

Saudi Arabia’s finance minister last month said his country was talking to manufacturers to provide COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries including Yemen.

The government of Yemen in addition intends the COVAX vaccines to be in distribution throughout the country; including to areas held by the Iran-backed Houthi militias, health minister Ali Walidi told Reuters.

“GAVI, WHO and UNICEF teams are in constant discussion with the government of Yemen and the authorities in the north; in order to define the logistical arrangements and the vaccination modalities;” Duamelle said.

Houthi health authorities told Reuters they had no money or plans to buy vaccines.

Yemen’s government has reported 2,122 coronavirus cases, including 615 deaths. Houthi authorities have not provided figures since May when they said there were four cases and one death.

The UN and aid agencies also say these official figures vastly underestimate the spread of the virus.

Confirmed cases have levelled off to a couple of new cases a day since September, and suspected cases presenting at health centers and in communities have slowed, aid agencies say, concluding that the first wave of the epidemic has passed.