The world’s first Covax Facility shipment has arrived safely in Ghana, providing the West African nation with 600,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The minister of information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said the arrival meant the country’s immunisation campaign could begin on 2 March, allowing it to start the process of safeguarding 30 million Ghanaians at risk.
The UN-backed Covax initiative is a global programme formed to ensure low- and middle-income countries have fair access to coronavirus medicine, led by the World Health Organisation.
Once Unicef successfully delivered the jabs to Accra’s international airport earlier, the agency tweeted to say Ghana had “made history” as the first recipient of “Covid-19 vaccines through Covax”.
According to the most recent figures from Ghana’s health services, the country has recorded 81,245 cases and 584 deaths from the virus.
Ninety-three low- and middle-income countries, including Ghana, will receive vaccines for free through Covax. Another 90 countries and eight territories have agreed to pay if they choose to receive vaccines through the scheme.
Deliveries are scheduled to take place in fellow West African regions Abidjan and Cote d’Ivoire later this week.
Mr Nkrumah said inoculations will be conducted in phases beginning with health workers, adults of 60 years and over, people with underlying health conditions, frontline executive, legislature and judiciary and their related staff.
He said: “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.”
Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab called the move “a huge step forward in ending this pandemic”.
“We will only save lives and reduce the risk of future infections if we prevent the virus spreading in the world’s developing countries,” he said.
The UK has committed £548m to the programme and pledged to donate the majority of any surplus vaccine stocks.
In a joint statement, Unicef and the WHO described the first Covax arrival as a “momentous occasion”.
The 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, with Covax set to deliver close to two billion doses of Covid vaccines around the world this year.
Unicef’s executive director, Henrietta Fore, said the shipment marked a commitment by the, “Covax Facility to ensure people from less-wealthy countries are not left behind in the race for life-saving vaccines”.
“Each step on this journey brings us further along the path to recovery for the billions of children and families affected by coronavirus around the world,” she added.