Ghana this week became the first African country to receive a shipment of coronavirus vaccines through the World Health Organisation’s global vaccine-sharing program – the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (Covax)
A flight carrying 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, arrived Wednesday in the capital, Accra, according to a joint statement from WHO and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
“We are pleased that Ghana has become the first country to receive the COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility. We congratulate the Government of Ghana – especially the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, and Ministry of Information – for its relentless efforts to protect the population,” reads a statement from UNICEF.
“As part of the UN Country Team in Ghana, UNICEF and WHO reiterate our commitment to support the vaccination campaign and contain the spread of the virus, in close cooperation with all partners, including Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).”
The shipment comes after a year of disruptions and more than 80,700 Ghanaians getting infected with the virus and represents part of the first wave of Covid vaccines headed to several low and middle-income countries through Covax.
Ghana’s frontline workers are scheduled to receive the vaccine first. “In the days ahead, frontline workers will begin to receive vaccines,” says Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore. “The next phase in the fight against this disease can begin – the ramping up of the largest immunisation campaign in history.”
Covax purchases vaccines with the help of wealthier countries and distributes them equitably to all countries – U.S. President Joe Biden last week pledged $4 billion to the program. It was set up in cooperation with Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, an organization founded by Bill and Melinda Gates to vaccinate children in the world’s least-developed countries.
The WHO in December said that Covax had secured agreements for nearly 2 billion doses of several “promising” vaccine candidates in what would become the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.
Covax is Africa’s best shot at getting the coronavirus vaccines… The region’s biggest and most populated economy, Nigeria, hopes to get 42 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to cover one-fifth of its population through the scheme, the country’s top officials said in January. WHO earlier this month assured Abuja that it will support the country to procure, distribute and administer the vaccines.
Another ‘new’ variant
Apart from the new coronavirus strains found in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Nigeria, a new variant of the novel coronavirus was recently discovered in California, which may be more contagious and lethal than other versions, according to two new preliminary studies.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco discovered the new variant – B.1.427/B.1.429 – as they were tracking the possible spread of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in Britain last year, according to reports.
The team found B.1.427/B.1.429 had become the predominant variant in the state after testing virus samples collected from across the state between September of last year and January.
Meanwhile, the supply of vaccines is expected to grow as manufacturers ramp up production. Pfizer’s Chief Business Officer John Young has said the company will double its output to 13 million doses per week by mid-March while Moderna hopes to deliver 40 million doses per month by April. Johnson & Johnson’s new one-shot vaccine is also on track to be reviewed Thursday, helping to further boost global.