One year ago today Sierra Leone launched the COVID-19 vaccination, days after receiving the first doses from the COVAX Facility and others through bilateral partnerships. To date, 1.1 million of the country’s 8 million people have been fully vaccinated and efforts are ongoing to increase vaccine uptake to reach a wider proportion of the population.
Since the first shipments, Sierra Leone has so far received 3 418 690 COVID-19 vaccine doses, with 68% from COVAX, 19% from the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust and 13% from bilateral deals and donations. Of the total doses received, 2.1 million have been administered, with around 20% of the target population (12 years and above) having been fully vaccinated.
The country continues to make steady progress in controlling the pandemic, leveraging solid technical and political commitments. There are strong partnership and coordination systems in place, strong participation of community leaders in the response, and high public awareness of the disease. Since 31 March 2020 when the first COVID-19 case was recorded, the country has now reported a total of 7 668 confirmed cases with 125 COVID-19 related deaths.
“Despite the major challenges with vaccine supplies and the slow vaccine uptake, the Sierra Leonean health authorities are making great efforts to increase vaccine uptake, including expanding vaccination sites, ensuring effective use of available stocks, mobilizing communities and addressing doubts and misinformation,” said Dr Steven V. Shongwe, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone. “WHO congratulates Sierra Leone on keeping the pandemic under control and will continue to support the government and its partners to achieve its goals.”
To increase uptake and protect more people, the routine COVID-19 vaccination sites have been increased from 72 to 724 across the country. The government has also initiated a strategic vaccination drive by introducing a monthly five-day surge vaccination campaign. These efforts are paying off; five surge campaigns have been implemented so far, cumulatively accounting for an estimated 57.6% of the country’s vaccination coverage since the beginning of the rollout on 15 March 2021.
A COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership has also been established and an immunization plan for resource mobilization has been instituted to strengthen and increase COVID-19 vaccination and response.
WHO continues to support the country to scale up COVID-19 vaccine uptake, which will hopefully limit the emergence of variants, as well as step up surveillance, genome sequencing capacity, and point of care testing in order to facilitate early detection and response to a cluster of cases. WHO is also continuing to support the efforts to adhere to public health and social measures until the pandemic is controlled.