Ghana kicks off coronavirus vaccination campaign with Covax shots

02 March 2021 - 21:30
By Reuters
A nurse prepares a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine during the vaccination campaign at the Ridge Hospital in Accra, Ghana, on March 2 2021.
Image: REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko A nurse prepares a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine during the vaccination campaign at the Ridge Hospital in Accra, Ghana, on March 2 2021.

Ghana launched its coronavirus vaccination drive on Tuesday after receiving 600,000 AstraZeneca doses from the global Covax vaccine-sharing scheme aimed at helping developing nations combat the pandemic.

The start of vaccinations in Ghana, and in neighbouring Ivory Coast on Monday, and the expected delivery of millions of vaccines from the Covax programme this week will enable more poor countries to start inoculating mostly front-line workers and the most vulnerable, months after wealthier countries began.

Covax is the programme backed by the World Health Organisation and GAVI vaccine alliance to provide vaccines for poor and middle-income countries. It said on Tuesday it aims to deliver 237 million doses of AstraZeneca's shot to 142 countries by the end of May as it steps up the global rollout.

On Tuesday, Nigeria took delivery of 3.92 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, while Angola received 624,000. Democratic Republic of the Congo was readying for a Covax delivery later on Tuesday and Senegal expects 324,000 doses from the scheme on Wednesday.

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said the West African country aimed to vaccinate 20 million people, or over 66% of its population, by the end of 2021.

People lined up outside the regional hospital in the capital, Accra, for a first phase of vaccinations which will prioritise front-line health workers and others at high risk.

“I feel so good about taking the vaccine. It will protect me from contracting the virus from patients,” said Bernice Anaglatey, 42, who works in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at Accra's Ridge Hospital as she queued for her shot.

Drones from US-based start-up Zipline delivered some of the vaccines to Ghanaian health facilities, making the country the first in the world to use the technology on a national scale to deliver Covid-19 shots, the company said.

Ghana was also the first country to receive the vaccines under Covax, which aims to distribute more than 1.3 billion vaccine doses to more than 90 low- and middle-income countries by the end of the year, covering up to 20% of their populations.

Only a handful of other African countries have started inoculations, with doses bought bilaterally or received as donations.

Vaccine deliveries through the Covax scheme are expected to accelerate this week with 11 million doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

Health authorities are also stepping up efforts to fight conspiracy theories around the vaccines. President Akufo-Addo and his wife were inoculated on Monday in an effort to boost public confidence in the vaccines.

“The stories I heard about the vaccine have put fear in me,” said Isaac Armah, a 28-year-old trader in Accra. “I'll wait for about two months to see the effects of the vaccine on the early recipients, then I'll make up my mind.”

Coronavirus infections in Ghana have surpassed 84,000 and more than 600 people have died, according to health ministry data.