The Ministry of Health has expanded the priority list for the first phase of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination drive to include persons aged 58 years and above.

COVID Vaccine Taskforce Chairman Dr.Willis Akhwale in a statement Thursday cited the surging third wave of coronavirus infections in the country.

Dr Akhwale noted that persons aged above 58 are at a high risk of severe infection and account for 60% of the COVID-19 related deaths that have been recorded in the country so far.

“The country is now experiencing the 3rd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with increasing number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. In view of this surge of the pandemic, and in order to protect and save lives, the Ministry of Health has decided to immediately prioritize vaccinations of persons aged 58 years and above,” Akhwale stated.

“According to our data, these are at most risk of severe disease and account for 60% of our recorded deaths. This group of persons will now be a priority target group under the ongoing Phase 1 vaccination exercise. This prioritization is also aligned to the WHO and National Taskforce on Vaccine Deployment recommendations.”

The First Phase of vaccination was launched on March 8, 2021, targeting 1.25 million frontline workers at high risk of infection. By Thursday, over 64,100 people had been vaccinated.