First Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to Africa under COVAX go to Rwanda

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KIGALI (Reuters) - The first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 shots to be dispatched to Africa under the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme were to arrive in Rwanda on Wednesday, as efforts to inoculate the world's poorest nations accelerate.

The batch of 102,960 doses were due in Kigali hours after a flight landed carrying 240,000 AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute of India, the health ministry said.

Rwanda plans to start its vaccination drive on Friday, prioritising frontline health workers and others at high-risk.

"We will receive additional doses until we reach 7 million doses under COVAX, but also we will be getting them through other mechanisms like African Union," Health Minister Daniel Ngamije said during a ceremony to receive the consignment.

The east African nation hopes to vaccinate 30% of its roughly 12 million people before the end of this year.

Rwanda’s economy, dependent on agriculture and services like hospitality, is projected by the International Monetary Fund to contract 0.2% in 2020, hurt by the pandemic.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Rwanda is 19,111, including 265 deaths as of March 2.

(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Writing by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)