Senegal launches COVID vaccination campaign

A nurse injected Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr first during the outdoor ceremony in the seaside capital Dakar.

The Minister of Health and Social Action, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr (C) gets vaccinated - as the first one in Senegal - during the official launch of the vaccination campaign against the COVID-19, in Dakar, on February 23, 2021. Picture: Seyllou / AFP.

DAKAR, Senegal - Several Senegalese ministers and civil-society figures received COVID-19 jabs in a televised ceremony on Tuesday, giving a high-profile push to the start of a nationwide vaccination campaign.

A nurse injected Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr first during the outdoor ceremony in the seaside capital Dakar.

She then jabbed the women's minister, followed by a prominent television personality, an infectious-diseases expert and several others, to sporadic applause from onlookers.

The start of the campaign comes after the government received 200,000 doses of the Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine Sinopharm last week.

Sinopharm is 79-percent effective against COVID-19 , according to its developers, and is being deployed in other African countries, including the Seychelles, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Equatorial Guinea.

Senegal's official coronavirus infection rate is far below those in the West, having recorded over 33,000 cases since March, of which more than 800 have been fatal.

But the nation of 16 million people is nonetheless battling a second wave of COVID-19, which forced the government to impose new restrictions last month, which include a nightly curfew in Dakar.

Speaking to reporters after his vaccination, Sarr announced that Senegal would donate 10 percent of its consignment of 200,000 vaccines to neighbouring Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia.

Senegal plans to target health workers and people over the age of 60 with co-existing diseases first in its own campaign.

In addition to its Chinese-made vaccines, the country is also set to receive Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs through its participation in COVAX, a global scheme to distribute coronavirus vaccines to poor countries.

However, Senegalese President Macky Sall told French radio in an interview broadcast on Tuesday that he expected "traditional partners, particularly the G7 countries, to share vaccines".

He also said that he had raised the "pressing demands of Africa" with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron, for his part, last week urged the West to supply 13 million vaccine doses to the continent as soon as possible, so that African governments can immunise health workers.

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