Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 July 2021:
On Monday, President Bio and Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Autin Demby, 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 to Sierra Leone.
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 Berkley’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 is high in the country, emphasising that any disruption of availability, especially the all too 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.
Dr Berkley, who is a medical doctor specialised in infectious disease epidemiology and global health, assured those additional vaccines will be available in Sierra Leone from end of July 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 told president Bio.
Dr Seth Berkly was formerly with the US Centre 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”.