As government officials in Nigeria continue to promise citizens that doses of COVID-19 vaccines will soon become available in the country, Ghana has become the first to receive COVID-19 vaccine on the continent through the Gavi and WHO-led COVAX platform. The vaccines arrived on a flight from Mumbai, via Dubai, where the flight also collected a shipment of syringes from a Gavi-funded stockpile at UNICEF’s regional Supply Hub.
In a statement, COVAX today announced that 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine licensed to Serum Institute of India have arrived in Accra, Ghana; it added that further deliveries to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire are expected this week.
“Today, Ghana became the first country outside India to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped via the COVAX Facility. This is a historic step towards our goal to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. The delivery is part of a first wave of arrivals that will continue in the coming days and weeks,” Gavi said in a statement.
COVAX shipped 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/ Oxford vaccine, from the Serum Institute of India (SII) from Pune, India to Accra, Ghana, arriving on the morning of 24 February. The arrival in Accra is the first batch shipped and delivered in Africa by the COVAX Facility as part of an unprecedented effort to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.
In a joint statement on the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in Accra, UNICEF Representative in Ghana, Anne-Claire Dufay and WHO Representative to Ghana, Dr Francis Kasolo said the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines into Ghana is critical in bringing the pandemic to an end.
“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),” the joint statement read.
Reiterating the need for global action on COVID-19 vaccination, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said the pandemic will not end anywhere unless it ends everywhere.
“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,” the DG said.
Over the past several months, COVAX partners have been supporting governments and partners, particularly for AMC-eligible participants, in readiness efforts, in preparation for this moment. This includes assisting with the development of national vaccination plans, support for cold chain infrastructure, as well as stockpiling of half a billion syringes and safety boxes for their disposal, masks, gloves and other equipment to ensure that there is enough equipment for health workers to start vaccinating priority groups as soon as possible.
In order for doses to be delivered to Facility participants via this first allocation round, several critical pieces must be in place, including confirmation of national regulatory authorisation criteria related to the vaccines delivered, indemnification agreements, national vaccination plans from AMC participants, as well as other logistical factors such as export and import licenses.
As participants fulfil the above criteria and finalise readiness preparations, COVAX will issue purchase orders to the manufacturer and ship and deliver doses via an iterative process. This means deliveries for this first round of allocation will take place on a rolling basis and in tranches.
Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI said: “This is a landmark moment in our efforts to get life-saving vaccine to the world. The fact that we now have multiple safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 developed in record time is testament to the scientific community and industry rising to the challenge of this pandemic. With this shipment we also see the global community, through COVAX, responding to the challenge of delivering these vaccines to those who need them most. Let us celebrate this as a moment of global solidarity in the struggle against the pandemic. But there is still much to do. With the increased spread of COVID-19 variants, we have entered a new and less predictable phase of the pandemic. It is crucial that the vaccines we have developed are shared globally, as a matter of the greatest urgency, to reduce the prevalence of disease, slow down viral mutation, and bring the pandemic to an end.”
“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 Executive Director. “In the days ahead, frontline 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. Each step on this journey brings us further along the path to recovery for the billions of children and families affected around the world.”
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