Woman in colorful dress receives a COVID-19 vaccine (© USAID RHITES-EC 2022)
Gladys Kahalwa receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination campaign in the Kaliro District of the Busoga region of Uganda. (© USAID RHITES-EC 2022)

Gladys Kahalwa, 79, lacked transportation to reach COVID-19 vaccination sites at major health centers in Uganda. But when a new vaccination site opened within walking distance of her home in the Kaliro District of Uganda’s Busoga region, Kahalwa and her 88-year-old husband, Jonathan, received shots.

“We were blessed to find a vaccination point in our neighborhood,” Kahalwa said at the mass vaccination site, established with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Now we can resume our lives.”

Uganda is one of the sub-Saharan African nations where the U.S. government’s Global Vaccine Access (Global VAX) initiative is generating a surge of COVID-19 vaccine supplies, training, equipment and support to quickly increase vaccination rates, including for members of vulnerable population groups or the elderly.

Global VAX support for the United States’ and international partners’ COVID-19 response builds on past U.S. investments in global public health, such as through PEPFAR, the President’s Malaria Initiative and the Global Health Security Agenda and Intensive Support partner countries.

Global VAX is greatly boosting COVID-19 support in Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The surge in support focuses on countries most likely to achieve a rapid increase in vaccinations.

In each country, less than 40% of the general population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Global VAX surge, in coordination with African governments and other partners, invests in safe vaccine transport, new vaccination sites to reach remote communities, and efforts to combat misinformation and increase vaccine confidence, among other steps.

Boxes labeled with U.S. flags and word 'COVAX' (U.S. Government)
The United States, in partnership with COVAX, has donated nearly 9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Angola and is expanding support for sub-Saharan Africa. (U.S. Government)

Global VAX launched in December 2021 to increase vaccinations worldwide and help meet the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the world against COVID-19.

The United States, in partnership with COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, has already provided more than 168 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa as part of President Biden’s pledge to donate 1.2 billion vaccine doses worldwide. Global VAX has emphasized the need for equitable vaccine access and is working closely with partner nations to increase vaccination rates across the African continent.

With U.S. support, Ugandans who received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine increased from 14% to 69% between November 2021 and April 2022. And as of June 27, 2022, Uganda had fully vaccinated 51% of people 18 and over. The United States has donated 18 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Uganda in partnership with COVAX.

Elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, U.S. vaccine donations and assistance with ultra-cold chain distribution, logistics and public outreach have contributed to the following accomplishments:

  • Côte d’Ivoire administered 8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses through monthly vaccination campaigns between December 2021 and early June 2022.
  • Nigeria achieved sustained vaccination rates in April of 200,000 doses to 250,000 doses administered per day.
  • Zambia nearly doubled the number of fully vaccinated people in its densely populated Copperbelt Province from 12% to 22% of the eligible population during December 2021.

Recent efforts to tackle COVID-19 build on the more than $100 billion the United States has invested to strengthen health security in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 years.

The United States also has provided $25 million through the Global VAX initiative to help Tanzania increase confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and make vaccination sites more accessible. Ummy Ally Mwalimu, Tanzania’s minister of health, said U.S. assistance will help Tanzania increase vaccinations. “We are determined to vaccinate 70% of people above 18 years,” she said.