Sun | Apr 11, 2021

Ghana 1st nation to receive coronavirus vaccines from COVAX

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2021 | 9:52 AM
This photograph released by UNICEF on Wednesday, February 24, 2021, shows the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility arriving at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana. Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive vaccines acquired through the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative with a delivery of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India. (Francis Kokoroko/UNICEF via AP)

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Ghana received the world’s first delivery of coronavirus vaccines from the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative on Wednesday — the long-awaited start for a programme that has thus far fallen short of hopes that it would ensure shots were given quickly to the world’s most vulnerable people.

The arrival of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the West African country marks the beginning of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

It is a linchpin of efforts to bring the pandemic to an end and has been hailed as the first time the world has delivered a highly sought-after vaccine to poor countries during an ongoing outbreak.

“Today marks the historic moment for which we have been planning and working so hard. 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,” said Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, which delivered the vaccines.

But the initiative, formed to ensure fair access to vaccines by low- and middle-income countries, has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses and logistical problems.

Although it aims to deliver two billion shots this year, it currently has legally binding agreements only for several hundred million shots.

It already missed its own goal of beginning vaccinations in poor countries at the same time immunisations were rolled out in rich ones.

The overall campaign thus far has been extremely uneven: 80% of the 210 million doses administered worldwide thus far were given in just 10 countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week.

That delay led numerous poorer countries to rush to sign their own deals, potentially undermining COVAX’s efforts to get shots to the neediest people.

And some countries can’t afford to go it alone.

Ghana is among 92 countries that will receive vaccines for free through the initiative, which is led by the WHO; Gavi, a vaccine group; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Another 90 countries and eight territories have agreed to pay.

Ghana, a nation of 30 million people that has recorded 81,245 cases and 584 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, plans to begin vaccinations on March 2.

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