Arrival of Covid-19 vaccines for UN personnel in the Central African Republic
“We are going to protect our staff so that they can better protect the Central African Republic and its most vulnerable population,” declared the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Denise Brown, upon the arrival of the first doses of Covid-19 vaccines for UN personnel at Bangui-M’poko Airport on Tuesday, 13 April 2021.
She was flanked by the Minister of Health of the Central African Republic (CAR) Pierre Somse, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the country Dr. Severin Ritter von Xylander and the UN AIDS Representative Patrick Eba while receiving the vaccines. Denise Brown lauded the efforts of UN Member States who “saw the importance of protecting UN peacekeepers who are in constant interaction with the Central African people that they are mandated to protect”.
MINUSCA is the first UN peacekeeping Mission to receive the Covid-19 vaccines. The double-dose Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine is primarily intended for the Mission civilian, military and police personnel as well as UN agency and international non-governmental organization staff in the country who are jointly working with the government of the CAR in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
It is not mandatory for UN personnel to take the vaccine, although vaccination is strongly recommended by the Mission’s leadership – with the rationale that the benefits of vaccination against the virus outweigh any accompanying risks.
UN staff members are regularly informed about vaccination efforts, including the sharing of the latest research on vaccine safety as well as Covid-19 testing and international travel measures in relation to vaccination. Medical officials have indicated that while the vaccine does not completely eliminate the risk of catching the coronavirus disease, it significantly reduces the severity of illness in case of infection.
Coronavirus infections on the rise
The vaccines arrived on the day that the Central African Ministry of Health announced an increase in coronavirus infection figures in the country, with 45 new cases registered – taking the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases to 5,682 since the start of the pandemic, with 75 recorded fatalities. In addition, six new cases of infection were recorded within the UN Mission.
“MINUSCA is leading by example in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic through the vaccination of its personnel. This will interrupt the chain of transmission in the country,” said the health minister Pierre Somse.
Support for national vaccination efforts
The MINUSCA Deputy Head highlighted the ongoing collaboration with the CAR national authorities to stop the spread of the pandemic: “The UN is championing the equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines globally through the COVAX initiative that is supported by Member States, so that all people, regardless of where in the world they are, may have the same opportunity to protect themselves against the coronavirus.”
Pierre Somse was hopeful that a national vaccination campaign would soon follow as the Central African Republic’s application for access to Covid-19 vaccines through the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme had been submitted – with domestic health authorities currently awaiting word on receiving the vaccines.
Denise Brown also underlined that the Mission’s Covid-19 vaccination drive will allow for the continued delivery of crucial humanitarian assistance. “The arrival of these vaccines will allow us to remain at the side of the Central African people,” she stressed.