An additional 350,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in a Turkish Airlines flight yesterday at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).
They were immediately taken for preservation at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
The consignment, which was initially allocated to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was airlifted to the country after the DRC failed to utilise them weeks after it arrived in that country.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic yesterday, the Presidential Advisor on Health, Dr Anthony NSIAH-Asare, said the Ghana Health Service (GHS) would announce details of the second phase of the exercise next week.
“They are now doing the preparatory work and hopefully next week, the date for the vaccination and other details would be announced, “ he said.
The vaccines were received by the Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, Mr Kwabena Boadu Oku-Afari, on the tarmac.
Mr Oku-Afari told the Daily Graphic in an interview that the arrival of the vaccines was a “big relief” for the country and a timely intervention in the country’s fight against COVID-19.
” Even if you have the money to buy, it is not easy these days to get them so this is very timely and a big relief for the country,” he said.
He said the GHS would kick-start the second phase of the vaccination soon.
WHO, UNICEF elated
Later in the day, WHO and UNICEF received a joint statement welcoming the arrival of the vaccines.
“Today, Ghana welcomed the arrival of 350,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility with logistical support from UNICEF.
“These AstraZeneca vaccine doses, which were developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII), form part of the larger 1.7 million consignment of doses allotted earlier to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Over 1.3 million doses have been reallocated to five countries in Africa,” the statement said.
The two organisations said Ghana was selected as one of the recipients of the doses due to its rapid, efficient and coordinated response to this public health crisis, as well as its absorption capacity.
“The Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service have also significantly strengthened cold chain equipment and facilities over the past years, with support from GAVI and UNICEF. This has enabled the successful and safe transfer of the vaccines between the two West African countries, the statement added.
“To assess the potency of the vaccine, UNICEF formed part of an independent committee which conducted a complete assessment of the vaccine and formally endorsed that they have been well maintained and are safe and effective for immediate use.”
Furthermore, the two organisations stated that the initial vaccination campaign, which commenced on March 1, 2021, following the vaccination of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, had enabled health workers, persons with underlying co-morbidities, frontline personnel living in Greater Accra, Ashanti and parts of Central regions to receive their first dose of the vaccine.
“This has provided a level of protection for members of the population most at risk of contracting the virus.
“UNICEF and WHO in Ghana welcome the arrival of these vaccines during these challenging times, when there is limited availability of the COVID-19 doses globally. Thanks to the collaboration between governments, the support from the COVAX facility and all partners, we are all seeking to ensure that the population is protected,” the statement said.
The country became the first country to receive vaccines through the COVAX initiative with a delivery of 600,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
The package was part of a first batch of free deliveries to a number of low and middle-income countries under COVAX, a UN-backed initiative with the objective of ensuring fair access to COVID-19 vaccines.
On the arrival of the first doses, WHO and UNICEF issued a statement describing the arrival of the vaccines as a “momentous occasion,” especially as the jabs would bring down infections.
“After a year of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the path to recovery for the people of Ghana can finally begin,” the statement said.
It added that the shipment marked the start of what was expected to be the world’s largest procurement and supply operation in history.