A shipment of nearly 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses — a gift from the United States to the people of Afghanistan — arrived at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on July 9.
By the end of the month, approximately 3.3 million doses donated by the U.S. government via the COVAX Facility are expected to reach Afghanistan, where health care workers are currently battling a brutal third wave of the coronavirus.
Battered by conflict, poverty and malnutrition, Afghanistan now faces a rise in COVID-19 cases
“These vaccines arrive at a critical time for Afghanistan as the country faces a difficult surge in COVID-19 infections,” said Hervé Ludovic De Lys, UNICEF's representative in Afghanistan. “As many countries face vaccine supply challenges, the dose-sharing mechanism is a rapid way to close the immediate supply gap and ensure the most vulnerable, including health care workers, teachers, the elderly, and those in hard-to-reach areas, are protected against COVID-19.
"UNICEF welcomes this shipment which is an important step in the continued fight against COVID-19 in Afghanistan. However, much more needs to be done. I hope that other governments will step up and share their doses, supplies and therapeutics to protect those most in need.”
Afghanistan's COVID-19 vaccination rate is less than 4 percent. A brutal third wave that began in June is killing 100 people a day
Limited testing obscures the total impact of the coronavirus in Afghanistan; 134,653 cases have been confirmed to date, and 5,791 deaths. Since the third wave began in June, there has been an exponential rise in recorded cases, with an average of over 2,000 new cases and 100 deaths per day. Less than 4 percent of the country has been vaccinated.
UNICEF is leading the procurement and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility in what is the largest, most complex ground operation in the history of immunization. COVAX is a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and UNICEF; it aims to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. To date, COVAX has shipped more than 109 million vaccine doses to 135 countries and territories.
After 70-plus years of vaccinating the world's children, UNICEF is leveraging its immunization expertise in the fight to end the pandemic
In addition to supporting the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, UNICEF continues to support Afghanistan's government-run immunization programs through planning, cold chain and vaccine management, technical know-how, training and community outreach to combat vaccine hesitancy. Building on over 70 years of experience in ensuring children are vaccinated against deadly childhood diseases, UNICEF is working with partners to build the capacity of local communities and ensure that they are engaged in the vaccination process from start to finish.
“Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is the clearest pathway to end this pandemic for all of us, children included,” Mr. De Lys said. “These donations are an important step for all of us to see the light at the end of this tunnel.”
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Top photo: Nearly 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines donated by the U.S. government to the people of Afghanistan through the COVAX Facility were offloaded at Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on July 9, 2021. © UNICEF/UN0487254/Fazel. Video by Tong Su for UNICEF USA.