In a turning point that brought hope to developing countries, Ghana has received the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX program of the World Health Organization, Wednesday.
Ghana Receives 600,000 Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine
Six hundred thousand doses of the vaccine arrived with the flight. The vaccines were developed by AstraZeneca, which is considered easier to distribute in developing countries than other vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna. This is because the AstraZeneca vaccine does not require extremely low temperatures for transportation and storage.
According to CNBC, Ghana's Information Ministry stated that people who are over 60 years old, front-line medical workers, and those with pre-existing medical conditions will be prioritized for the vaccination.
In a joint statement by UNICEF and WHO, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore called the shipment of vaccines to Ghana a "historic moment.' She also stated that the organizations have been working so hard and have been planning for this for a long time.
Moreover, Fore stated that COVAX sending out the first shipment also serves as a promise to developing countries that no one is left behind in this battle against the disease that has taken the lives of almost 2.5 million people globally.
What is COVAX?
Amid the race by wealthy countries to broker deals and get access to the vaccine, COVAX was developed with the aim of equitable vaccine access. COVAX is a plan which aims to vaccinate 20% of the world's poorest countries through donations by the end 2021. The movement is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, an international alliance called Gavi, and the WHO, CNN reported.
In a statement by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's chief executive, Mark Suzman, back in December, he said that it could be too late for the aimed equitable distribution of the vaccine due to the huge deals by first-world countries. This is because while the wealthy countries procure their vaccines, many poor countries suffer from shortage and inaccess.
Based on data by the People's Vaccine Alliance, a group of human rights campaigners, 53% of the world's vaccine supply has been procured by wealthy nations by December of 2020. These rich nations only account for 14% of the global population.
On the other hand, some middle-income countries are also set to acquire COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX, however, on a self-funded plan. The plan's goal is to get 2 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to these countries by the end of the year. The vaccines that COVAX distributes are only those that the WHO has deemed effective and safe.
The vaccines that the COVAX facility has delivered to Ghana were manufactured by India's Serum Institute. The organization has been given access to intellectual property; thus, it is able to use the formula by Oxford-AstraZeneca to produce vaccines.
Meanwhile, more than 670 million doses of the vaccine from the Serum Institute have already been secured by the African Union for its member countries. The union's goal is to vaccinate at least 60% of the 1.3 billion people in Africa in the next couple of years.