Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio Engages COVAX, GAVI for more COVID-19 Vaccines, Says Demand is High

Teleconference, Freetown, Monday 19 July 2021 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio and Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Austin Demby, have concluded a teleconference with Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi the vaccine alliance, resulting in the agreement to deliver another consignment of vaccines very soon. 

The President said he appreciated the call and the continued support to Sierra Leone through the COVAX facility, adding that he was particularly grateful for Dr Berley’s personal engagement with his government, especially relating to their routine immunisation services through GAVI.

“We have so far vaccinated over 150,000 individuals with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines and nearly 90,000 with their second dose. We have worked hard to create demand for these vaccines and now that the general population is ready for and demanding to be vaccinated, we cannot afford to interrupt the process.

“I am, therefore, asking for expedited delivery of these needed vaccines, especially the AstraZeneca vaccine over the next week and no later than the end of July.

“Our population is very familiar with the AstraZeneca vaccine, staff have been trained in its delivery and we have obtained the necessary Emergency Use Authorisation from our Regulatory Agency, the National Pharmacy Board,” President Bio said.

President Bio noted that with ongoing efforts demand for vaccination was high in the country, emphasising that any disruption of availability, especially the very familiar AstraZeneca vaccine, would have major consequences on the country’s response to the pandemic.

“We cannot afford to wait till late August/September to continue our vaccination campaign with the AstraZeneca vaccine. It is, therefore, important that we prevail on COVAX to rush-deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine even as we await the other promises,” he said to Dr Berkley.

In his responses, Dr Berkley, who is a medical doctor specialised in infectious disease epidemiology and global health, said he was pleased with the leadership of the President, adding that he would like to encourage other African leaders to be as strong as he was in the fight against Coronavirus.

He assured that additional vaccines would be available in Sierra Leone from July end to September so that the vaccination exercise in the country would not be interrupted.

“We are eager to partner with you. Thank you very much for your leadership. We need all the champions we can get,” he noted.

Dr Seth Berkly was formerly with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Rockefeller Foundation before founding the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. In 2009 he was recognised as one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”.

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