OPINION | What Africa can learn from Rwanda’s effective Covid-19 vaccine rollout

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  • Rwanda has made a commendable effort to vaccinate its population.
  • The country's vaccination effort involved every stakeholder from both the public and private sectors. 
  • Rwanda's lessons should be shared with other African countries. 


According to the Rwandan Ministry of Health, 60% of Rwanda's population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The Rwandan Ministry of Health announced this in a tweet on Thursday, 3 March 2022, as the country commemorated one year since the first consignment of vaccines under the Covax programme reached the country.

On 3 March 2021, the first batch of 240 000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine arrived in Kigali. Rwanda has made a commendable effort, and other African governments can learn from their partner. 

Vaccinating a nation as quickly as possible necessitates the involvement of every stakeholder from both the public and private sectors. The pandemic has demonstrated that, while existing immunisation establishments can be utilised, the Covid-19 campaign necessitates a much broader approach.

A customised strategy

Rwanda inaugurated a national coordinating framework centralising decision-makers from each essential category. For instance, the Scientific Advisory Group and National Task Force for Covid-19 vaccination began meeting regularly months before the first vaccines arrived to design a rollout strategy, identify gaps, reduce risks in the supply chain, and make other crucial decisions. Activities were designed by ministries, regional, and municipal governments based on these decisions.  

Vaccine rollout needs a customised strategy even for the smallest communities, although many decisions and standards are formulated at the national level. As a result of this, each neighbourhood's uniqueness is recognised. Demography is one of the most critical aspects of African countries.

Estimating vaccine demand is ambiguous without updated data on the whole population, as well as factors like age distribution, occupations, aggregated high-risk comorbidities and non-communicable diseases.

Rwanda established a prioritisation system based on updated demographics data. Frontline healthcare workers, the elderly, and persons with underlying chronic diseases were the first to receive vaccines.

Also, based on this plan, the government conducted a mass, immediate national screening process to determine the number of vaccines needed in each area. It is also critical to have sufficient detailed data about healthcare capacity.

If this does not happen, there would be a mismatch between vaccine demand and the number of skilled and functional healthcare providers to distribute the vaccine.

Vaccination critical for the whole continent

A practical appraisal founded on such data could indicate that expanding an immunisation programme will require extra staff and training resources. Augmenting the existing workforce may also be necessary for a successful implementation.

For example, to quickly get going with the rollout in Israel, multidisciplinary health teams were formed, and retired nurses and military paramedics were rehired to fill the capacity gap. 

The arrival date of Rwanda's first COVAX shipment was not confirmed until a few days before the shipment arrived. Healthcare staff who deliver vaccinations, on the other hand, were enrolled and equipped ahead of time.

More than a month before the immunisations began, at least two vaccination teams were assigned to each hospital and health centre across the country. An inventory was given to each immunisation location the day before to ensure that the necessary human resources, logistics, supplies, and digital tools were in place. Personnel were on standby and ready when the vaccines arrived. 

Nobody knows how a pandemic will end. However, it is critical to vaccinate the entire continent. Rwanda's accomplishments should be celebrated, and lessons should be shared with other African countries.

*Nicholas Aderinto is a writing fellow at the African Liberty. He tweets at iamnicholas4.

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