Afghanistan on Tuesday commenced COVID-19 vaccination drive, administering doses initially to security forces, health workers and journalists.
The country received 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is producing the vaccine for mid- and low-income countries, earlier this month.
The vaccines would be provided to 250,000 people, mostly from the security, health, education and media sectors, acting health minister Waheed Majroh said in a ceremony in the presidential palace.
The campaign is launched amid rising violence in the country, although the Taliban have announced their backing for the vaccinations.
“Today is a fortunate day for Afghanistan as we launch the first vaccination drive, but it would be a challenge to roll the plan to the whole country,” Majroh said.
Authorities have said that the international COVAX programme, which is aimed at improving access to the COVID-19 vaccine for developing countries, would provide vaccines to cover 20% of the country’s population.
President Ashraf Ghani, who witnessed the first injections, said the pandemic is still a serious problem for the country and called on health workers to vaccinate people in a fair and transparent manner.
He added efforts are underway to cover 40 percent of the population in a second round.
So far Afghanistan has recorded about 55,646 cases of COVID-19 and 2,435 deaths.