Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive Covid jabs acquired through the Covax initiative, an immunisation-sharing scheme designed to help poor countries compete in the vaccination race.
The United Nations-backed initiative saw a delivery of 600,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India.
The vaccines, delivered by Unicef, arrived at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport on Wednesday and are part of the first wave of Covid-19 vaccines that Covax is sending to several low and middle-income countries.
The Covax programme seeks to offset "vaccine nationalism", with the majority of coronavirus jabs snapped up by richer nations.
Ghana is among 92 countries that have signed up to the Covax programme, according to a statement by Ghana’s acting minister of information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah.
The West African nation of 30 million has recorded 81,245 coronavirus cases and 584 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to figures from Ghana health officials.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab welcomed the first delivery of vaccines. The UK has committed £548 million to the programme and has promised to donate the majority of any surplus vaccine stocks. Mr Raab said: “Today’s rollout of vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable countries is a huge step forward in ending this pandemic. “As one of the biggest donors to Covax the UK is ensuring that more than one billion vaccine doses will be sent to 92 countries so that no one is left behind in this global fight. “We will only save lives and reduce the risk of future infections if we prevent the virus spreading in the world’s developing countries.”
Ghana’s vaccination campaign will begin on March 2 and will be conducted in phases among prioritised groups, beginning with, among others, health workers, adults over 60 and people with underlying health conditions.
“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,” Mr Nkrumah said.
In a joint statement, the country representatives of Unicef and the World Health Organization (WHO) described the arrival of the Covax vaccines as a “momentous occasion” critical to bringing the pandemic to an end.
“After a year of disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic… the path to recovery for the people of Ghana can finally begin,” said the statement.
The Covax shipment to Ghana is the start of what will be the world’s largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to the statement. Covax plans to deliver close to two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines around the world this year.
“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, Unicef’s executive director.
“The next phase in the fight against this disease can begin – the ramping up of the largest immunisation campaign in history,” said Ms 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.”