June 16, 2021 at 09:00 am
Niger on Tuesday launched a week-long drive to expand its coronavirus vaccination programme after early efforts to inoculate the population met widespread reluctance.
Health Minister Illiassou Mainassara told a press conference that the "mass vaccination campaign" will aim at reaching the maximum number of people, focussing on adults aged 18 and above.
"Niger started to vaccinate the public against Covid-19 on March 29, but unfortunately, progress is still slow," he said.
In December last year, the government set the goal of vaccinating 47 percent of the population of 22.4 million by the end of 2021.
But as of late May, only 170,000 people had received the jab, going to vaccination centres that are often thinly attended.
Local media have blamed fears stoked by rumours and false information on social networks.
In a shift of strategy, vaccination teams will fan out to government offices, police and military installations and transport companies, where they will vaccinate workers and users, Mainassara said.
Niger has received 780,000 coronavirus vaccine doses, comprising 400,000 of China's Sinopharm, 355,000 doses of AstraZeneca acquired through the international Covax scheme for poor countries, and a donation from India of 25,000 doses, also AstraZeneca.
The landlocked West African state is the poorest in the world by the yardstick of the UN's Human Development Index.
Niger has recorded 5,452 cases of Covid-19 infection, of which 192 have been fatal.
The country swiftly imposed tough anti-coronavirus restrictions after its first cases surfaced in March 2020. Many of these measures have since been eased, although land borders remain closed.