KABUL: Afghanistan received half a million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine from India on Sunday (Feb 7), the first consignment to arrive in the country that was hit hard by the virus last year.
The AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine is being produced by Serum Institute of India, with the consignment of doses arriving in Kabul as part of a program by New Delhi to distribute the vaccine to its neighbours.
“We received 500,000 doses of vaccines for Covid-19 patients from the government of India,” Afghanistan’s Acting Health Minister Wahid Majrooh told reporters at Kabul airport as he received the consignment.
The doses will initially be administered to the country’s health workers and elderly citizens with a history of chronic ailments as per guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation, he said.
Majrooh said Kabul plans to ultimately cover 60 per cent of the population and was working with international agencies like the World Bank, Asian Development and the European Union to procure more jabs.
The coronavirus entered Afghanistan in February 2020 as thousands of migrants returned from neighbouring Iran, at the time the worst-affected nation in the region.
In the following months Afghanistan, already wracked by decades of war, was ravaged by COVID-19, particularly in Kabul.
In August last year a health ministry survey revealed that 10 million people – nearly a third of the country’s population – had been infected with the coronavirus.
The country of 32 million people has limited testing capacity, but recent months have seen a decline in new infections, with officials registering about 55,300 confirmed cases so far and about 2,400 deaths.