Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire launched their COVID-19 vaccination drives on Monday, the first on the planet to use vaccines provided by the World Health Organization’s COVAX program.
First in line to get the shots in their respective countries were Ghanian President Nana Akufo-Addo and Patrick Achi, the secretary-general to Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, according to Agence France-Presse.
"It is important that I set the example that this vaccine is safe by being the first to have it, so that everybody in Ghana can feel comfortable about taking this vaccine," said 76-year-old Akufo-Addo, who won a second term in December, during a live broadcast in which he received the shot. He tested positive for COVID-19 in April 2020.
More than half a million Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses arrived in both Accra and Abidjan last week, part of a global initiative in partnership with the WHO to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poorer nations at low cost, in order to ensure equitable inoculation against the virus. A number of nations have contributed to the program, but industrialized nations have at the same time acquired far more vaccine doses than they need, virtually ensuring the rollout will continue to be unequal.
“We will not end the pandemic anywhere unless we end it everywhere," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press release last week. "Today is a major first step towards realizing our shared vision of vaccine equity, but it's just the beginning. We still have a lot of work to do with governments and manufacturers to ensure that vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries within the first 100 days of this year."
According to AFP, some 145 participating nations will receive 337.2 million doses by the middle of 2021, which will only provide for just over 3% of their combined populations. By that time, the Biden administration expects to have a dose available for all 330 million Americans.
Ghana’s Health Ministry has also separately registered the Sputnik V vaccine, which was developed in Russia and was the world’s first. The government hopes to have two-thirds of its 30-million-strong population vaccinated by year’s end, although COVAX will cover just 6 million Ghanians, according to AFP.
However, other African nations have already begun vaccination that aren’t participating in the COVAX program, including Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt.