Yemen: Covid-19 vaccination drive begins in government-held areas

Health workers and the elderly in line to receive Yemen’s first vaccine doses

Minister of Civil Service Abdul-Nasser al-Wali, receives the AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a medical center in Aden, Yemen April 20, 2021. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman
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Yemen's Covid-19 vaccination campaign began on Tuesday in 13 provinces controlled by the country's internationally recognised government.

Minister of Public Health, Dr Qasim Buhaibeh, Minister of the Civil Service Dr Abdul Nasser Al Wali and other officials, launched the campaign in Aden.

Yemen received 360,000 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine on March 31, its first delivery.

The country is expecting 2.3 million vaccine doses through the global vaccine sharing scheme Covax, funded by the World Health Organisation. But those deliveries will be staggered.

"The vaccination campaign began in 13 provinces under the government's control and will cover 317,363 people, including healthcare workers and elderly people aged 60 and above, especially those with chronic diseases," deputy health minister Dr Eshraqa Al Subaei told The National.

About 1,740 health workers will be carrying out the vaccination drive, which will last for 12 days, she said.

Dr Buhaibeh, Dr Al Wali and UN representative Philippe Dualleme were all vaccinated to show confidence in the shot's safety, she said.

The vaccination campaign got under way amid a sharp rise in new infections in the country.

Health workers in Yemen are being hit hard by the pandemic.

epa09147721 People gather at a health center to get doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen, 20 April 2021. Yemen's Saudi-backed government launched the COVID-19 vaccination program against the coronavirus pandemic in Aden city and the southern areas under its control, targeting more than 300,000 people.  EPA/NAJEEB ALMAHBOOBI
People gather at a health centre to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The government plans to innoculate more than 300,000 people. EPA

Twenty-four health workers have died in government-held areas, Dr Al Subaie said, "among them top surgeons".

Yemen’s Emergency Committee for Covid-19 registered 60 new cases and six deaths from the virus on Tuesday.

The committee has recorded 5,918 cases in total, as well as 1,138 deaths and 2,281 recoveries.

The actual number of cases in Yemen is believed to be much higher, a result of the widespread lack of testing in the country.

Dr Al Subaie said hundreds of people whose infections had not been registered had died from Covid-19 at home in government-held areas and territory controlled by the Houthi rebels, where there is no vaccination drive.

Areas of northern Yemen under the control of the Iran-backed Houthis are badly affected by the virus.

Several Houthi officials have succumbed to Covid-19, including transport minister Zakaria Al Shami, who died in March after contracting the virus.