Senegal will start vaccinating vulnerable members of its population against coronavirus by the end of March, the health ministry said Friday, as the poor country battles a second wave of infections.
In an interview, health ministry spokesman Abdoulaye Ndiaye said priority will go to people whose work exposes them to the virus, as well as people over 60 and those with co-existing diseases.
About 3.5 million people fall into those categories, he said, representing about 20 percent of the West African state’s population.
As with other countries in Africa, Senegal’s official infection rate is far below levels in the West, having recorded over 22,000 coronavirus cases since March and over 500 deaths.
The nation of 16 million people is nonetheless battling a second wave of Covid-19, which forced the government to impose new restrictions this month, which include a night-time curfew in the capital Dakar.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr submitted a vaccine strategy to President Macky Sall, the details of which have not been made public.
Ndiaye, the health ministry spokesman, said that under a provisional timeline, vaccinations would begin before the end of March.
He did not specify when the second phase of the campaign will begin.
Senegalese media have reported that the government intends to complete its vaccination campaign by the first quarter of 2022.
The campaign could also cost from about 30 million euros ($36 million) to 580 million euros ($703 million), Ndiaye said, depending on the price of the vaccine chosen, as well as products such as syringes.
Senegal is participating in COVAX, a global collaboration scheme with pharmaceutical firms to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
However it is also in talks to procure 200,000 doses of the Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine Sinopharm.