Elderly South Sudanese Bishop Receives COVID-19 Jab, Seeks to Dispel Fear of Vaccine

Bishop emeritus Paride Taban of South Sudan's Torit Diocese receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: ACI Africa

The Bishop emeritus of South Sudan’s Torit Diocese has, in a bid to dispel fears over COVID-19 vaccination exercise, become the first known prominent religious leader in the East-Central African nation to receive the jab.

In an interview with ACI Africa on Thursday, April 15 shortly after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, Bishop Paride Taban, 85, said that he was driven by faith to take the vaccine despite the fears that surround it.

Bishop Taban exuded confidence that many, including other religious leaders, would now follow his example and that the “propaganda surrounding the vaccine” in the nine-year-old country would be dispelled. 

“I believe that when I get the vaccine, it is something that can be exemplary to others especially to young people. It is also my belief that nothing wrong will happen to me,” the South Sudanese Bishop who resigned in February 2004 at the age of 68 told ACI Africa.


He added, “Many people are afraid of this vaccine but corona disease is a reality and we cannot avoid it. We have to encourage our people to be careful about it.”

“Fear is one of the things that destroy people. We must get rid of fear. They say what we have to fear in this world is fear itself,” the founder of the Holy Trinity Peace Village, Kuron, further said.

Vaccination against COVID-19 in South Sudan started April 6. The exercise has not reached many private institutions.

The country’s President, Salva Kiir, got inoculated this week alongside some senior politicians in his government including the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar.

In the April 15 interview, Bishop Taban acknowledged that the vaccines have side effects but added that he had not experienced any yet following his vaccination. 

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COVID-19 vaccination is so far a voluntary exercise, the Health Coordinator for South Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat (SSCBS), Dr. Thomas Tongun noted in an interview with ACI Africa, recounting that Bishop Paride requested to be vaccinated.

“I went to greet the Bishop yesterday in his residence and during our conversation, he asked about the availability of COVID-19 vaccine since the President has received his first dose,” Dr. Tongun told ACI Africa April 15.

He added in reference to Bishop Taban, “As a health Coordinator, I told him that I could facilitate the vaccination if he wanted it. The Bishop said he was leaving for Kuron Peace Village this weekend and he wanted to be vaccinated before returning to the village.”

The health coordinator advised that health is a personal responsibility and it is up to individuals to decide for the benefit of their health.


“The Bishop and some of the staff have received the vaccination today. No one should be afraid to take this vaccine because all the drugs in this world including the vaccines have the side effects and we need to be looking at the benefits we get from the vaccine,” Dr. Tongun said.

He continued, “We have been told that whenever there are abnormal side effects, there is a number provided, that is 3666, one can call it and be given attention.”

In an interview with ACI Africa, the National Director for Immunization Program in South Sudan’s Ministry of Health, Dr. George Awznio Legge, confirmed that Bishop Taban was the first Prelate of the Catholic Church in South Sudan to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

He named some of the possible side effects of the vaccination including “headache, fever and sometimes nausea.”

“All these effects last for 24 hours after vaccination,” Dr. Legge said, and added, “Our people need to know that the vaccine is safe and effective.”

The health official noted that since the start of COVID-19 vaccination in the country, no serious side effects have been reported among recipients of the vaccine. 

“Normally, before vaccination, we ask about your age, about chronic diseases one may have had, and if you are on a serious illness, we will not give you the vaccine,” he said and added, “The condition of the Bishop is very normal and that is why we proceeded giving him the vaccine.”