By Christian Akorlie
ACCRA, March 2 (Reuters) – Ghana began its coronavirus vaccination drive on Tuesday with 600,000 AstraZeneca doses it received from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing facility aimed at providing shots to developing nations to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
People lined up for shots outside the regional hospital in the capital, Accra, for a first phase of vaccinations which will prioritise frontline health workers and others at high risk.
“I feel so good about taking the vaccine. It will protect me from contracting the virus from patients,” said Bernice Anaglatey, 42, who works in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Accra’s Ridge Hospital as she queued for her shot.
While western nations have secured millions of doses and launched mass vaccination drives, most poorer countries do not yet have access to any, raising concerns about equitable distribution of vaccines to fight the pandemic.
Ghana was the first country to receive vaccines as part of the World Health Organization’s COVAX sharing scheme aimed at pooling funds from wealthier nations and non-profits to deliver doses equitably around the world.
COVAX aims to deliver over 1.3 billion vaccine doses to over 90 low- and middle-income countries by the end of the year, covering up to 20% of their populations.
Only a handful of other African countries have started inoculations, with doses purchased bilaterally or received as donations.
Ghana’s neighbour Ivory Coast launched its COVID-19 inoculation drive on Monday with doses from COVAX.
Vaccine deliveries through the COVAX scheme are expected to accelerate this week with 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines delivered to countries, some in Africa including Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and his wife received the vaccine on Monday in an effort to boost public confidence ahead of the campaign, amid rumours and scepticism about vaccines. But scepticism remained.
“The stories I heard about the vaccine have put fear in me,” said Isaac Armah, a 28-year-old trader. “I’ll wait for about two months to see the effects of the vaccine on the early recipients, then I’ll make up my mind.”
Coronavirus infections in Ghana have surpassed 84,000 and more than 600 people have died, according to health ministry data.
(Reporting by Christian Akorlie, Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Bate Felix and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
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