Ghana on Wednesday became the first country in the world to receive Covid-19 vaccines from Covax, an international co-operative program whose mission is to ensure that low and middle-income countries are not left behind in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines. The shipment, consisting of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines, arrived Wednesday morning at the Kotoka International Airport in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
The vaccines, which are part of the first wave of vaccine deliveries headed to several low and middle-income countries, were produced by the Serum Institute of India, in the Indian city of Pune, a joint statement issued by UNICEF Ghana and WHO Ghana said.
“Today marks the historic moment for which we have been planning and working so hard,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “With the first shipment of doses, we can make good on the promise of the COVAX Facility to ensure people from less wealthy countries are not left behind in the race for life-saving vaccines.”
“The next phase in the fight against this disease can begin -– the ramping up of the largest immunization campaign in history,” said Fore. “Each step on this journey brings us further along the path to recovery for the billions of children and families affected around the world.”
Ghana, with a population of 30 million, has so far recorded 81,245 cases of the coronavirus and 584 deaths. The West African country is among 92 countries that have signed onto the Covax program. Covax is led by the United Nation’s World Health Organization; Gavi, a vaccine group; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI. Covax is funded by donations from governments, foundations and multilateral institutions. Its aim, according to a report by CNN, “is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can’t compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies.”
In February, Covax said it had secured almost 2.3 billion doses for distribution this year. Out of that figure, 1.8 billion is expected to be made available to 92 of the world’s poorest countries, the majority of which will be free. Countries that have signed to the program have to submit a detailed plan for handling and distributing the shot. Charles Adu Boahen, Ghana’s deputy finance minister, said Accra was first because the WHO had given the nod to its rollout plan. That rollout plan was led by former WHO deputy director-general Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah.
“[He] was in charge of vaccines for three years at the global health body and . . . was instrumental in putting together the rollout plan in a timely manner, allowing Ghana to be approved ahead of other African countries,” Boahen said, according to the Financial Times.
Ghana’s vaccination campaign will start March 2 and will be conducted in phases, beginning with health workers, adults of 60 years and over, people with underlying health conditions, frontline executive, legislature, judiciary, and their related staff, Ghana’s acting Minister of Information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said in a statement.
“The government of Ghana remains resolute at ensuring the welfare of all Ghanaians and is making frantic efforts to acquire adequate vaccines to cover the entire population through bilateral and multi-lateral agencies,” he said.