South Sudan has so far received a total of 344,470 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to support the national COVID-19 response.
The first batch of 132,000 doses of AstraZeneca was received through the COVAX facility in March 2021 and second tranche of 59,520 Astra Zeneca vaccines donated by France was received on 31 August 2021.
In September 2021, the country received a third batch of 152,950 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines. World Health Organization (WHO) South Sudan County Office reported that 81,061 (0.7%) eligible people received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine with 31,952 (0.3%) being fully vaccinated.
Vaccination in phase I and II of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout targeted 35 of the 80 counties of South Sudan, mainly in urban centres.
The low vaccination coverage is mainly due to poor access by the majority of the eligible populations who lived in the remotest and hard-to-reach parts of the country, which led to inequitable distribution of the vaccines.
To improve access and equitable distribution in the third phase, World Vision’s CORE Group Polio Project, funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and in collaboration with the State Ministries of Health, will support scale up of the vaccinations in key states.
A total of 45 health facilities were designated as fixed sites, 50 mobile sites were mapped, 46 nurses and 89 vaccinators have been identified, stakeholders were debriefed, while coordination and advocacy meetings are ongoing.
This was supported by the County Health Departments (CHDs) of the targeted counties.According to the Ministry of Health (MoH), the prepositioning of Johnson & Johnson vaccines and supplies to the states have started. The phase III national launch was set on 8 October 2021.
In the phase III of the vaccine rollout, all 80 counties of South Sudan will receive the vaccines. The CORE Group Polio Project, in collaboration with the MoH, WHO and UNICEF, trained 34 health workers from August to October on the vaccines to support the scale up in the third phase.
They are composed of field project supervisors and project officers from the 24 counties of Eastern, Central and Western Equatoria States. In turn, they are tasked to also train 46 nurses and 89 vaccinators in the counties before deployment.
Logboro Carson, the Project Officer in Kapoeta South County of Eastern Equatoria said the mapping of the vaccination sites, community leaders’ engagement and coordination meetings with state coordinators and cold chain managers of the three counties of Kapoeta East, Kapoeta North and Kapoeta South counties on the scale up were completed.
There should be no time to waste in rolling the phase III of the COVID-19 vaccination which runs till end of January 2022 since most of the preparatory works have been done.
Carson adds, “The selection of vaccinators with the CHD, community awareness by the boma health promoters, community key informants and meetings at the counties and state level are going on well.”
Yeka Levi, the Project Officer in Yei County, shared that the project expects to carry out the vaccination in at least 2-3 selected health facilities in each of the six counties of Central Equatoria State.
“The preparation is ongoing in the counties of Lainya and Kajokeji which did not receive the vaccines in phase I and phase II of the roll out”, Levi shares.
“The mapping of the health facilities was finalized and the CHDs approved the list of vaccinators and nurses from the selected health facilities”, Levi adds.
In Yei County for example, Martha Primary Health Care Center and St. Bakhita Primary Health Care Center was among the health facilities where the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was administered.
On his part, Unzi Justin, Project Assistant based in Pageri payam of Magwi County in Eastern Equatoria state stated that in the three payams of Pageri, Nimule and Mugali most of the preparatory activities for the COVID-19 vaccine scaling up are complete.
The county has given its strategy for the vaccine roll out and a total of 33 boma health promoters and social mobilizers have been trained to support social mobilization to create demand for the vaccine.
“We also conduct COVID-19 county cluster meetings to receive updates on the COVID-19 outbreak situation in the country to guide our preparations'', he adds.
Dr. Rumbe Samuel, the CORE Group Deputy Project Director in South Sudan, explained that the training of the vaccinators is expected to start immediately after completion of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
“There should be no time to waste in rolling the phase III of the COVID-19 vaccination which runs till end of January 2022 since most of the preparatory works have been done”, Dr. Samuel emphasizes. Dr. Samuel expressed hope that transportation of the vaccines and supplies to the counties will be finalized before the training of the vaccinators.
With funding from USAID, CORE group is expected to include part of the 60,000 Astra Zeneca vaccines from Sweden and 152,950 doses of Johnson and Johnson from the United States of America to support scale up of the COVID-19 vaccination to the remote and hard to reach areas.
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Story and photos by Jemima Tumalu, Communications Officer