Ghana has received a total of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India.
Following the arrival of the doses in Ghana, vaccinations are expected to start next week, with prioritised groups such as health workers, people over 60 years, and those with underlying health conditions.
Representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, and the President’s Representative at the Health Ministry, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, were at the Kotoka International Airport yesterday to receive and subsequently handed over respectively.
The country took delivery of the vaccines through COVAX, a global solution to the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure that people in all corners of the world get access to the vaccines.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) are leading the cause to have the vaccines spread across the globe.
Last week Friday, the Ghana Health Service and the Information Ministry held a forum on the vaccination plan put together ahead of the arrival.
Announcing the arrival of the 600,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines they emphasised that the first segment of the population that will receive the 600,000 doses will be those listed above.
However, the statement, under the signature of the President’s Representative at the Ministry of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, added frontline executives, the legislature, judiciary and their related staff, frontline security personnel, some religious leaders, essential workers, teachers and other personalities in the Greater Accra Region, including Awutu Senya and Awutu Senya East in the Central Region.
A similar segmented population in the Greater Kumasi Metropolis and Obuasi Kunicipality will also be covered, the release added.
It continued that: “From 2nd March, the COVID-19 vaccines will be deployed in health facilities and designated centres in these geographical regions. The government of Ghana remains resolute at ensuring the welfare of all Ghanaians and is making frantic efforts to acquire adequate vaccines to cover the entire population through bilateral and multi-lateral agencies.”
The statement urged the public to do their part by ensuring that they get vaccinated when the vaccine gets to them.
The package, which landed in Ghana yesterday, is the first consignment of vaccines acquired through the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX), which Ghana, among 92 countries, has signed onto.
In a press release on Wednesday, a UNICEF Representative in Ghana, Anne-Claire Dufay, indicated that the agency is “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.”
Meanwhile, the presence of the vaccines has met mixed reactions from the general public, particularly on social media.
Whereas some were happy that at last the country had received vaccines for the deadly COVID-19 and expressed the readiness to have their shots, others were emphatic they would not.
According to the latter, histories on vaccines, and especially the perceived myth surrounding COVID-19, coupled with lack of proper education on the vaccine are but some of the reason they are not willing to take the vaccine.
This position comes at a time when the Ministry of Information in their statement urged the public to ensure they are vaccinated especially as government had done its part to have the vaccines in the country.
About the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine
Also known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, or AZD1222, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, is a viral vector vaccine. Scientists used an adenovirus, originally derived from chimpanzees, and modified it with the aim of training the immune system to mount a strong response against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
One key characteristic of this vaccine is that it can be stored at 2-8℃ (so, in a normal fridge). This is distinct from some of the other COVID-19 vaccines — such as Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine — which must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. So, the AstraZeneca vaccine can be widely distributed with relative ease.
The vaccine can be given to people over 18, including adults older than 65. The recommended interval between the two doses is 12 weeks, but the second dose can be administered a minimum of four weeks after the first.