UN launches large-scale vaccination effort in Afghanistan after Taliban OK

UN launches large-scale vaccination effort in Afghanistan after Taliban OK
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The United Nations launched a large-scale coronavirus vaccination effort in Afghanistan last week after receiving approval from the Taliban.

UNICEF spokesperson Sabrina Sidhu confirmed to The Washington Post that COVID-19 vaccinations had begun in southern Afghanistan across 14 provinces.

The Post noted the U.N. and the Taliban have been in talks regarding vaccinations for the past few weeks.

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Vaccination rates in Afghanistan, which had been slow to start with after the country received its first shipment of vaccines in February, plummeted after the Taliban took control in August.

The World Health Organization's (WHO) emergency director for the Eastern Mediterranean Richard Brennan told the newspaper that only 4.3 percent of Afghanistan's population is fully vaccinated.

"Now, the Taliban authorities, their big priority is really to get basic health services going again, and within that the vaccination programs are key,” said Brennan. “They don’t have a lot of technical capacity or a lot of what we would call operational capacity, so they are encouraging the WHO and UNICEF to play a big role.”

According to the WHO, Afghanistan has confirmed more than 155,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 7,000 related deaths. Only about 7 doses per every 100 people in Afghanistan have been administered, making the country the worst in terms of vaccinations in the region.

Just days after the COVID-19 vaccination effort began in Afghanistan, the U.N. announced that the Taliban had put its backing behind a WHO polio vaccination campaign, set to begin on Nov. 8. Afghanistan has only confirmed one case of wild poliovirus this year, with WHO saying this presented an “extraordinary opportunity” to eradicate the disease in the country.