Ghana has become the first country to receive vaccines through the United Nations-backed Covax scheme, which aims to get Covid vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable people, in a global effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
A flight carrying 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca- Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India landed in Ghana’s capital, Accra, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef), said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
The delivery comes almost a year after the WHO first described the novel coronavirus as a global pandemic and eight months after the launch of the Covax initiative, aimed at pooling funds from wealthier countries and non-profits to develop a Covid vaccine and distribute it equitably around the world.
“This is a momentous occasion, as the arrival of the Covid vaccines into Ghana is critical in bringing the pandemic to an end,” Anne-Claire Dufay of Unicef Ghana, and WHO country representative, Francis Kasolo, said in the statement.
“These 600,000 Covax vaccines are part of an initial tranche of deliveries … which represent part of the first wave of Covid vaccines headed to several low and middle-income countries.”
The shots will be used to kick-start a vaccination drive that will prioritise front-line healthcare workers and others at high-risk, according to a plan presented by Ghanaian health officials on Friday.
“The shipments … represent the beginning of what should be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history,” the statement added.
The roll-out in Ghana is a milestone for the initiative that is trying to narrow a politically sensitive gap between the millions of people being vaccinated in wealthier countries and the comparatively few who have received shots in less-developed parts of the world.
The African Union (AU) has been trying to help its 55 member states buy more doses in a push to immunise 60 percent of the continent’s 1.3 billion people over three years. Last week, its vaccine team said 270 million doses of AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines secured for delivery this year had been taken up.—Al Jazeera