The World Health Organization’s global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX delivered its first COVID-19 shots on Wednesday, as the race to get doses to the world’s poorest people and tame the pandemic accelerates.
Almost a year after the WHO first described the novel coronavirus as a global pandemic, a flight carrying 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India landed in Ghana’s capital Accra.
Local representatives of the WHO and the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF described the vaccines’ “momentous” arrival as a critical step in bringing the pandemic to an end.
“The only way out of this crisis is to ensure that vaccinations are available for all,” Anne-Claire Dufay of UNICEF Ghana and WHO country representative Francis Kasolo said in a joint statement.
The delivery comes eight months after the launch of the COVAX initiative, aimed at pooling funds from wealthier countries and non-profits to develop a vaccine and distribute it equitably around the world.
The shots, part of an initial tranche of deliveries for several low and middle-income countries, will be used by Ghana to start a vaccination drive from March 2 that will prioritise frontline health workers and others at high risk of infection.
“The first segment of the population that will receive the 600,000 doses will be health workers, adults 60 years and over, people with underlying health conditions,” the government said on Wednesday after health minister-designate Kwaku Agyeman Manu received the vaccines at the airport.
Some senior government officials, teachers, security personnel and essential workers in Accra and the country’s second-largest city Kumasi, will also be vaccinated.
More than 80,700 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Ghana and 580 people have died, according to a Reuters tally.