Six hundred thousand doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the UN-partnered COVAX initiative arrived in Ghana on Wednesday, and The World Health Organization (WHO) said that further supplies of the AstraZeneca/Oxford jab will reach Côte d’Ivoire later this week.
These are the first coronavirus shots from the COVAX scheme to be distributed outside India, where the vaccine is being produced under licence.
They were shipped from Mumbai to the Ghanaian capital, Accra, by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as part of the first wave of vaccines headed to several low and middle income countries.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore described their arrival as “the historic moment for which we have been planning and working so hard”, as the world ramps up the largest immunization campaign in history.
“With the first shipment of doses, we can 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,” she said.
Further supplies will be shipped to other nations as the global rollout gathers pace, when readiness criteria have been met and the doses produced.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director General, welcomed the development, along with COVAX partners Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
But he insisted that there was still “a lot of work to do” to secure support for WHO’s goal of giving the vaccine to all health workers and older people in the first 100 days of the year.
“We will not end the pandemic anywhere unless we end it everywhere,” the WHO chief said in a joint statement.