Ghana has received a historic first shipment of 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility.
Ghana is the first country to receive the COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility, an arrangement by the World Health Organization, Gavi, the Vaccine Initiative and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to provide vaccines for low and middle-Income countries.
In a joint statement, the UNICEF Representative in Ghana, Anne-Claire Dufay and the World Health Organization, WHO, Representative to Ghana, Dr Francis Kasolo, said the vaccines arrived Accra to kickstart the country’s vaccination process.
“After a year of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 80,700 Ghanaians getting infected with the virus and over 580 lost lives, the path to recovery for the people of Ghana can finally begin.
“This is a momentous occasion, as the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines into Ghana is critical in bringing the pandemic to an end. The only way out of this crisis is to ensure that vaccinations are available for all.
“We thank all partners that are supporting the COVAX Facility to deliver safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to all countries quickly and fairly.
“These 600,000 COVAX vaccines are part of an initial tranche of deliveries of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine licensed to the Serum Institute of India, which represent part of the first wave of COVID vaccines headed to several low and middle-income countries.
“The shipments also represent the beginning of what should be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. The COVAX Facility plans to deliver close to 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines this year. This is an unprecedented global effort to make sure all citizens have access to vaccines.
“We are pleased that Ghana has become the first country to receive the COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility. We congratulate the Government of Ghana – especially the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, and Ministry of Information – for its relentless efforts to protect the population.
“As part of the UN Country Team in Ghana, UNICEF and WHO reiterate our commitment to support the vaccination campaign and contain the spread of the virus, in close cooperation with all partners, including Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
“Vaccines save lives. As health workers and other front-line staff are vaccinated, we will be able to gradually see a return to normalcy, including better access to health, education and protection services. In the spirit of Universal Health Coverage, let’s leave no one behind.”
Confirming the news on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that further supplies of the AstraZeneca/Oxford jab will reach Côte d’Ivoire later this week.
These are the first coronavirus shots from the COVAX scheme to be distributed outside India, where the vaccine is being produced under licence.
They were shipped from Mumbai to the Ghanaian capital, Accra, by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as part of the first wave of vaccines headed to several low and middle income countries.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore described their arrival as “the historic moment for which we have been planning and working so hard”, as the world ramps up the largest immunization campaign in history.
“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,” she said.
Further supplies will be shipped to other nations as the global rollout gathers pace, when readiness criteria have been met and the doses produced.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director General, welcomed the development, along with COVAX partners Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
But he insisted that there was still “a lot of work to do” to secure support for WHO’s goal of giving the vaccine to all health workers and older people in the first 100 days of the year.
“We will not end the pandemic anywhere unless we end it everywhere,” the WHO chief said in a joint statement.
“Today is a major first step towards realizing our shared vision of vaccine equity, but it’s just the beginning. We still have a lot of work to do with governments and manufacturers to ensure that vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries within the first 100 days of this year.”