Ghana receives world's first doses of free Covax vaccines

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • Ghana is the first country to receive Covid-19 vaccines from Covax.
  • Health workers will be prioritised to receive the vaccine.
  • Covax aims to deliver over two million doses to Ghana.

Ghana received Wednesday the first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines from Covax, a global scheme to procure and distribute inoculations for free, as the world races to contain the pandemic.

LIVE | All the latest coronavirus and lockdown updates

Covax, launched last April to help ensure a fairer distribution of coronavirus vaccines between rich and poor nations, said it would deliver two billion doses to its members by the end of the year.

"We are pleased that Ghana has become the first country to receive the Covid-19 vaccines from the Covax facility," Unicef, which organised the shipment from Mumbai, said in a joint statement with the World Health Organisation - both backers of Covax.

It said the 600 000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine licensed by the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, are part of an initial tranche of deliveries "headed to several low and middle-income countries".

The Emirates flight carrying the vaccines touched down at Accra's Kotoka International Airport shortly after 07:40 GMT, in images broadcast on television.

Covax had said it aimed to deliver 2 412 000 doses of the vaccine to Ghana.

Health workers first

The country's food and drug authority has authorised the use of the vaccines made in India as well as the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia, according to local media.

The West African nation has recorded 80 759 Covid-19 cases and 582 deaths since the start of the pandemic. These figures are believed to fall short of the real toll as the number of tests is low.

Health workers and other frontline staff are meant to be among the first to receive doses.

"In the days ahead, frontline workers will begin to receive vaccines," said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

"The next phase in the fight against this disease can begin - the ramping up of the largest immunisation campaign in history."

Covax, led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), had anticipated a first round of deliveries to take place in March with some early shipments occurring in late February.

The continent, relatively spared by the pandemic, was the last except Oceania to reach the threshold of 100,000 deaths, which Europe crossed in April 2020.

At the height of the pandemic in January, Africa had 906 deaths per day.

To help speed up immunisation of the continent's 1.3 billion people, the African Union said it had secured 270 million doses of anti-Covid vaccines for delivery this year.

Poor countries' access

The WHO on Monday blasted wealthy countries for hogging Covid vaccines and hindering the pathway for poorer nations to get them too.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said some rich countries' direct deals with manufacturers had meant that previously-agreed vaccine allocations for poorer countries, via the Covax programme, were being reduced.

Some 145 participating economies are set to receive 337.2 million doses - enough to vaccinate a little over three percent of their combined populations.

Covax has said it hopes to raise the figure to up to 27% in lower-income countries by the end of December.

New variants of the virus, including in neighbouring Nigeria, are spreading across the continent with the UK and South African variants recorded in cases in Ghana.

"It is strongly recommended for countries to use the AstraZeneca vaccine even if the... new variants are present," the WHO said in a statement last week.

In Ghana, schools reopened in January after a 10-month closure, but large social gatherings are banned and land and sea borders have remained closed since March 2020.

Ghana's economic growth is expected to plummet this year to its lowest in three decades, to 0.9% according to the International Monetary Fund, from 6.5% in 2019.

Do you want to know more about this topic? Sign up for one of News24's 33 newsletters to receive the information you want in your inbox. Special newsletters are available to subscribers.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
When and why would you have your or your partner's sperm count checked?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
That's an unnecessary procedure
17% - 984 votes
As soon as we decide to start a family
7% - 439 votes
Only if we're struggling to conceive
76% - 4533 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo