KABUL (Reuters) – China has pledged to deliver 400,000 doses of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine to Afghanistan, Afghan officials said on Monday, in a boost for an immunisation campaign begun last week.
“China’s ambassador to Kabul said in a meeting with health officials that his country would provide Afghanistan with 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine,” Ghulam Dastagir Nazari, the health ministry’s head of the immunisation programme, told Reuters.
The Sinopharm vaccine produced in China has been approved by the World Health Organization, but it is unclear when it will be delivered, Nazari said.
So far just over 12,000 health workers have received the vaccine in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, he said.
The vaccination of members of the security forces has also begun, according to another official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to media.
Afghan government forces are facing intensified attacks, blamed on Taliban insurgents, since September, when the two sides entered U.S.-brokered peace talks hosted by Qatar. The Taliban has largely denied responsibility for the rash of violence. The militant group has also said it supports the vaccination campaign.
Afghanistan has already received 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India, which enabled the nation to launch its vaccination drive last Tuesday.
Afghan health officials have said that the international COVAX programme, which is aimed at improving access to the COVID-19 vaccine for developing countries, would provide vaccines to cover 20% of the country’s 38 million population.
Afghanistan has registered 55,733 infections and 2,444 deaths. But experts say cases are significantly under-reported due to low testing and limited access to medical facilities in the war-torn country.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)