INTERNATIONAL NEWS - Ethiopia on Sunday received its first 2.2 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus, and officials in Africa's second most populous country said the first jabs would be administered in the coming days.
The doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, were allocated under the UN-led Covax initiative which is working to facilitate vaccine access for poorer countries.
"After a long wait of uncertainty, hope has become a reality," Health Minister Lia Tadesse said at a ceremony at the airport in the capital Addis Ababa.
She hailed Covax as "an unprecedented global partnership," adding: "The more people get vaccinated, the faster we're going to beat this pandemic."
Ethiopia has so far reported 165,029 cases of Covid-19, the fifth-highest total in Africa and the highest in East Africa.
Over the past month, cases have risen by 12 percent on average each week, and deaths have risen by 37 percent on average each week, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
"We have lost more than 2,400 of our brothers and sisters, and we know the real numbers could be much higher," Lia said Sunday.
Sunday's delivery "is part of the first wave of arrivals of the Covid-19 vaccines in Ethiopia that will continue in the coming weeks," the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.
Ethiopia's vaccination campaign will initially target health workers, health ministry senior adviser Muluken Yohannes told AFP.
"This week administration will start," he said.
The goal is to vaccinate 20 percent of the country's roughly 110 million people by the end of the year, he said.
So far Ethiopia has not arranged for any separate vaccine shipments to supplement what Covax can provide, Muluken said.
While it has received some offers for donations, none has been approved, he said.
"If there are any successful donation programmes, then we will make it transparent," he said.
Neighbouring Djibouti also received its first AstraZeneca vaccines via Covax this weekend, the WHO announced Saturday.
"This first shipment of vaccines will support the vaccination of health care workers, people over 50 years of age and people with comorbidities," it said.
Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF's supply division, said on Twitter that Djibouti had received 24,000 doses.
Djibouti has recorded 6,102 Covid-19 cases and 63 deaths, according to the WHO.