Home / Africa / First vaccine doses distributed by Covax land in West African nation of Ghana

First vaccine doses distributed by Covax land in West African nation of Ghana

Ghana became the first country to receive a delivery of coronavirus doses from the global effort to boost vaccine access after a plane landed Wednesday with 600,000 AstraZeneca shots.

The immunization help arrives days after President Biden pledged $4 billion to the multilateral pact known as Covax, breaking with the Trump administration’s shunning of the World Health Organization-backed mission.

The West African country of 31 million was selected as the first recipient after sending a rollout plan to Covax proving its health-care teams and cold chain equipment were ready to support a quick distribution.

Other nations across West Africa are expected to soon receive similar Covax shipments.

The doses touching down in the capital, Accra, come from the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.

Boxes of vaccines left Mumbai on Tuesday for Dubai, where a logistics crew picked up hundreds of thousands of syringes, before hurtling toward Africa’s west coast.

“In the days ahead, front line workers will begin to receive vaccines, and the next phase in the fight against this disease can begin — the ramping up of the largest immunization campaign in history,” Henrietta Fore, the executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, said in a statement.

Ghana kicked off its rollout months after vaccinations began in wealthier nations, highlighting the deep disparities of shot distribution as the pandemic throttles life around the globe.

Covax projects that it will deliver 2.3 billion doses by the year’s end — most of which will go to poorer countries, free of charge. High-income nations, however, have already snapped up twice that amount, according to a Duke University tracker.

“So far, 210 million doses of vaccine have been administered globally — but half of those are in just two countries,” WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday in Geneva. “More than 200 countries are yet to administer a single dose.”

Covax organizers have faced a long battle to secure funding, particularly after Trump opted out of participating — a decision informed by his feud with the WHO.

Ghana has recorded more than 80,700 coronavirus cases and 580 deaths.

Workers at the Accra airport rushed to load Wednesday’s doses into trucks bound for communities across the country. Ghana plans to first protect the vulnerable: health-care personnel, the elderly and those with medical conditions that increase their risk of serious illness.

The nation imposed tight restrictions after the pandemic hit, sealing its land borders and airspace, and increased pay for doctors and nurses.

More than 300,000 community health workers have received vaccine distribution training in the coronavirus era, building on Ghana’s past polio-eradication campaigns, health officials said.

The goal is to vaccinate 20 million people, Kwame Amponsa-Akyianu, Ghana’s program manager for immunization, told reporters earlier this month.

It’s unclear how long that effort could take, but the first shots are expected to be administered early next week.

“There is hope in sight,” said Juliette M. Tuakli, a public health physician and pediatrician in Accra. “People have underestimated the enormous mental health toll covid has taken on everyone. We never thought we’d be dealing with this a year-plus later.”

washingtonpost.com

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