South Sudan health workers take the frontline of COVID-19 vaccine subnational rollout

The South Sudan Ministry of Health (MOH) reported that 57,150 people received COVID-19 vaccines of which 52,387 and 4,763 individuals received their first and second doses of AstraZeneca, respectively.

In preparation for the scaling up of the COVID-19 vaccination in South Sudan, and to ensure equitable access to the vaccine, World Vision, through the United States Aid for International Development (USAID)-funded CORE Group Polio Project organized a 3-day training of trainers from 24-26 August 2021.

A sample of the Astra Zeneca vaccine being used for the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in South Sudan.


The 34 health workers from the 24 counties in Western, Eastern, and Central Equatoria States participated in the training. They were composed of four coordinators, five officers, and 25 supervisors who attended the training at Ambassador Hotel in Juba.

The participants represented their respective implementing organizations, which include World Vision, Support for Peace and Education Development Program (SPEDP), and Organization for People’s Empowerment Needs (OPEN). Highly skilled and experienced facilitators from the MOH, the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, led the training.

From left: James Bol Choul, Lawrence Mukombo, Anson Edu, Anthony Kisanga CORE, Dr. Brendan Dineen and Dr. Obi Emelife.


The facilitators were Dr. Evans Mokaya, Senior Program Coordinator-MoH-GAVI, Dr. Paul Victor, EPI Specialist, WHO, Dr. Obi Emelife, AEFI Consultant-WHO, Dr. Brendan Dineen, WHO COVAX Coordinator, Anson Edu, COVAX C4D Consultant, UNICEF, Lawrence Mukombo, Data Manager, WHO, Dr. Nay Myo Thu, Immunization Supply Chain Specialist, UNICEF, and James Bol, Cold Chain Consultant, UNICEF.

The sessions included basic information on COVID-19 vaccination, vaccine characteristics, and vaccine management at health facilities, organizing vaccination sessions, and adverse events following immunization for COVID-19, recording, and monitoring, and communicating about the vaccination.

WHO COVAX Coordinator Dr. Brendan Dineen takes the team through the module, organizing a vaccination session, as Dr. Obi Emelife takes questions from the participants.


One of the participants, Maruf Barnabas, the Project Coordinator from Western Equatoria says, “I have learned about Covid-19 vaccines and adverse events following immunization. It is my first time attending this training and am happy that I did. Now I know that the vaccines are safe and can reduce the severity of the disease if a vaccinated person is infected.”

Barnabas adds,” With the knowledge we acquired, the Western Equatoria team is confident to set the ground ready for the scale-up of the COVID-19 vaccination to ensure the majority of the people get access to it.”

We heard many rumors like the vaccine can cause infertility. But gradually, the people are realizing that coronavirus is real and the vaccine is the solution.

According to Apai Jackline, the Project Supervisor for Morobo County, the training is timely and it equipped her with a lot of information and skills on COVID-19 vaccination. She said, as a focal person in this county bordering both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, there is a high demand for the vaccine.

She adds, “During the first phase of the vaccination, many people never had access in Morobo County because it was conducted in Yei County, 30 miles away through mobile vaccination clinics. With the scale-up and more sites, they can cater for the high demand.”

The freeze-free vaccine carriers used for storing the COVID-19 vaccines during the outreach sessions.


Itapus Paul Mark, the Project Supervisor in Kapoeta East, says, “With my newly acquired knowledge on risk communication, I will be able to address the rumors and myths that are circulating about the vaccines. In my family, my wife and I have already taken the first dose of the vaccine.”

To Itapus, there is no greater joy than to lead by example as a leader. “I will take my second dose in the presence of the people in my community so that they will be convinced that it is safe and can protect them from the deadly virus.” Itapus said that the vaccination was conducted in Kapoeta South, which is 76 km from Kapoeta East. He recalled that when the people in the East heard about the vaccines, they were not happy and said they were left out.

WHO Data Manager Lawrence Mukombo trains Project Coordinator Maruf Barnabas from Western Equatoria how to operate the Open Data Kit.


Itapus further adds, “We heard many rumors like the vaccine can cause infertility. But gradually, the people are realizing that coronavirus is real and the vaccine is the solution. With the mobile sessions that will be initiated, people living far from the static vaccination sites will now be reached.”

Anthony Kisanga, the Project Director says, “There were serious issues on the equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in South Sudan, especially in remote areas. With USAID support, World Vision will be able to help accelerate the availability of the vaccine in many communities.”

UNICEF Immunization Supply Chain Specialist Dr. Nay Myo Thu demonstrates on how to properly manage the vaccines and the cold chain system.


“This will be possible through strong partnership, efficient collaboration, scaling up of fixed vaccination sites and supporting mobile teams to reach communities who are far from the designated fixed vaccination site”, Kisanga concludes. After the training, the participants are expected to work in collaboration with the County Health Departments to conduct detailed mapping for the COVID-19 vaccination scale-up.

They are also tasked to debrief stakeholders on the scale-up strategies, identify and train vaccinators, establish additional fixed and mobile vaccination sites and initiate monitoring and evaluation of the intervention in line with the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout guideline in the country.

A sample of South Sudan's COVID-19 vaccination card provided after the completion of the vaccination.


Story and photos by Jemima Tumalu, Communications Officer