South Africa is suspending its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine after finding it offers limited protection against mild disease caused by the COVID-19 variant discovered there.

Senegal began its coronavirus vaccination campaign on Tuesday with 200 000 doses that it purchased from China’s Sinopharm, which it received last week.

The first shots were given to government ministers and health workers at the health ministry in the capital, Dakar.

The West African country is one of the first in the region to start vaccinating its population against Covid-19. It has so far recorded over 33 099 cases and 814 deaths from the disease.

As a lower-middle income country, Senegal is eligible for about 1.3 million vaccine doses for free through the first wave of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Covax programme, but it is still waiting for them to arrive.

Earlier this month the government said it paid a little over 2 billion CFA francs ($3.74 million) for the Sinopharm doses to kickstart its campaign.

Senegal’s health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said in a brief speech after receiving the vaccine that, as a sign of solidarity with other African nations, Senegal would give 10 000 doses each of the vaccine to smaller neighbours Gambia and Guinea Bissau.

Senegal aims to inoculate about 90% of a targeted 3.5 million people, including health workers and high-risk individuals between the ages of 19 and 60, by the end of 2021. The country’s population is about 16 million.

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