Ghana has set March 2 as the day to begin distribution of the 600,000 doses COVID-19 vaccine from the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility received yesterday morning. Already, some regions have prepared to receive their allocations and proceed with immunisations.
The Minister-designate for Health, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, led a delegation to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India (Covishield).
A short ceremony held at the Kotoka International Airport was attended by the European Union (EU) and its member-states present in the country; the EU and its member-states are major contributors to the COVAX facility with over €2.2billion.
“We are pleased that Ghana has become the first country to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX Facility,” said Dr. Francis Kasolo, World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Ghana.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director, Henrietta H. Fore, also said: “Today marks the historic moment for which we have been planning and working so hard. With the first shipment of doses to Ghana, we can begin to 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”.
Team Europe has said that it remains committed to the fight against COVID-19 and leading efforts to secure fair and equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.
In a press statement, the Information Minister-designate, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said the vaccines are “the first consignment acquired through the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) which Ghana, among 92 countries, has signed onto”. He said the vaccines will be administered in phases among segmented populations in the country.
“The first segment of the population that will receive vaccines from the 600,000 doses will be health workers, adults 60-years and over, people with underlying health conditions, frontline executive, legislature, judiciary and their related staff, frontline security personnel, some religious leaders, essential workers and teachers,” he said.
He disclosed that a section of the population in Greater Accra Metro – including Awutu Senya and Awutu Senya East in the Central Region – will also receive the doses; adding that a similar segmented population in the Greater Kumasi Metro and Obuasi municipality will also be covered.
Mr. Oppong Nkrumah, Minister-designate for Information, said government remains “resolute on ensuring the welfare of Ghanaians, and is making efforts to acquire adequate vaccines to cover the entire population through bilateral and multilateral agencies”.
In the Ashanti Region, Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Emmanuel Tenkorang, noted that the vaccination exercise will start in the Greater Kumasi, and forms part of the national effort to curb spread of the disease.
The first phase of the programme, according to Dr. Tenkorang, will cover a total of 14 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) within Greater Kumasi, targetting frontline health workers, all persons with chronic diseases, security agencies, persons aged 60-years and above.
While assuring that GHS has the capacity to undertake the vaccination exercise, he noted that the process is not new to the country – as about four types of vaccines for children are already being deployed by GHS against measles, yellow-fever and others.
“In Ghana, we have embarked on expanded programmes of immunisation, and we have done this since 1978. This has been the work of Ghana Health Service. So, as far as immunisation or vaccination is concerned in this country, there is nothing new,” he stressed
Dr. Tenkorang was speaking at a media engagement on rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines in Kumasi, and also noted that the data of vaccinated persons will be captured into a national database by the GHS. This, he observed, will make it possible for the GHS to generate necessary health data which may be required for international travel among others in the future.
What is Covax?
So far, richer countries have been able to buy far more Covid-jabs than poorer ones.
The Covax scheme was set up by the WHO, the Gavi vaccines alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to try to prevent poorer countries from being pushed to the back of the queue.
The programme is designed so that richer countries buying vaccines agree to help finance access for poorer nations, too.
It hopes to deliver more than two billion doses to people in 190 countries in less than a year. In particular, it wants to ensure 92 poorer countries will receive access to vaccines at the same time as 98 wealthier countries.
It aims to reach up to 20% of the populations of poorer countries, at no cost to their governments.
Most African countries are intended recipients of Covax, but a number of them such as Senegal have been making provisions for vaccines outside the initiative.