COVAX delivers its first vaccine shots with shipment to Ghana

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Feb 24, 2021, 11:04 PM IST


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A flight carrying 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India landed in Ghana's capital Accra on Wednesday.

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX delivered its first Covid-19 shots on Wednesday.

A flight carrying 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India landed in Ghana's capital Accra on Wednesday.

The delivery comes eight months after the launch of the COVAX initiative, aimed at pooling funds from wealthier countries and non-profits to distribute vaccines equitably around the world.

The shots, part of an initial tranche for low and middle-income countries, will be used by Ghana to start a vaccination drive from March 2 that will prioritise frontline health workers and others at high risk.

Coronavirus infections have soared in Ghana to over 81,200, and 584 people have died, with nearly as many dying in the first two months of this year as in the whole of 2020.

The roll-out in Ghana is a milestone for COVAX, which is trying to narrow a politically sensitive gap between the millions being vaccinated in wealthier countries and the comparatively few who have received shots in less developed parts of the world.

It plans to deliver nearly 2 billion doses this year, including 1.8 billion to poorer countries at no cost to their governments, and to cover up to 20% of countries' populations. But it will not be sufficient for nations to reach herd immunity and effectively contain the spread of the virus.

The African Union (AU) has been trying to help its 55 member states buy more doses in a push to immunize 60% of the continent's 1.3 billion people over three years. Last week, its vaccine team said 270 million doses of AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines secured for delivery this year had been taken up.

China has donated small batches of its Sinopharm vaccine to countries including Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea. And Russia has offered to supply 300 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine to the AU scheme along with a financing package.

But many countries are largely reliant on COVAX.

On Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged wealthy nations to share vaccine doses with COVAX, saying the goal of equitable distribution was "in jeopardy".

"Today is a major first step towards realizing our shared vision of vaccine equity, but it's just the beginning," he said on Wednesday.
He had earlier warned that so far 210 million doses of vaccine have been administered globally but half of those are in just two countries and more than 200 countries were yet to administer a single dose.

COVAX is co-led by the WHO, the GAVI vaccines alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and UNICEF.

Africa's reported COVID-19 death toll surpassed 100,000 last week, a fraction of those on other continents but rising fast amid a second wave of infections.

South Africa paused its roll-out of AstraZeneca's vaccine after preliminary trial data showed less efficacy against the 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant dominant there, but other African countries say they will use the shot.

Ghana is among six African countries that have confirmed cases of the variant.

The COVAX rollout is being considered as an inflexion point in Africa's pandemic response. But having said that, it should be noted that the West must take the blame for Africa's slow rollout.

They have stocked up on jabs -- leaving very little for the rest. Canada has bought enough doses to inoculate the population five times over.

The European Union has ordered enough for a double vaccination; so has the United States.

Such massive orders have strained the supply chain, and vaccine makers are unable to keep up.

In short, the pandemic exposed the fault lines in our world, and minorities were hit harder by the virus.

Rich countries handed out cheques, while livelihoods disappeared in poorer nations. This trend of inequity is continuing with the vaccine roll-out.

In Latin America, 1.6 doses are being given per 100 people; in the US, the number is 19; in Britain, it's 27.

Well, the virus may not discriminate -- but the vaccine does.