Yemen received its first COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday when 360,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arrived by plane in Aden. This consignment was provided by the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme, which includes plans to eventually bring 1.9 million doses to the war-torn Arab country. A week ago, Yemen’s internationally recognized government declared a health emergency in response to a second wave of the pandemic, which has, to date, killed a reported 882 people in Yemen. With only 140 confirmed cases and 29 reported deaths per million population, Yemen could be considered doing relatively well. But most citizens in this poverty-stricken country, ravaged by six years of civil and proxy war and economic collapse, have access to only the most rudimentary medical facilities, and the UN and aid agencies assume the true figures are much higher. Testing and treatment are extremely limited; areas under control of the Iranian-backed Houthi movement, including most large urban centers, have provided no COVID-19 figures since May 2020. The COVAX vaccines will be distributed across the country for free, a spokesman for Yemen’s Health Ministry said last week. More shots are expected to arrive in May 2021. COVAX is co-led by the GAVI alliance, which arranges for poor countries to get access to the vaccine, the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund.
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