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First COVID-19 COVAX vaccine doses administered in Africa

GENEVA / NEW YORK / OSLO – As the global rollout of COVAX vaccines accelerates, the first COVID-19 vaccination campaigns in Africa using COVAX doses began March 1, 2021, in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. These campaigns are among the first to use doses provided by the COVAX Facility’s Gavi COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC).

The AMC is the COVAX Facility’s mechanism to provide donor-funded vaccines to lower-income countries.

The campaigns in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire follow deliveries to both countries last week with Ghana taking delivery of 600,000 doses on February 24 and Côte d’Ivoire 504,000 doses two days later. Both countries received the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine licensed and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII). The vaccine, branded COVISHIELD, was granted Emergency Use Listing (EUL) by the World Health Organization on February 15.

H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, president of the Republic of Ghana, said: “COVID-19 has changed the world. It has cost lives, battered health systems, and damaged livelihoods. But, through these challenges, we have seen the best of humanity exemplified through strong multilateral cooperation. Ghana welcomes the arrival of the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX AMC as a pathway to ending the acute phase of the pandemic. To maximise the public health benefit of the vaccine, the first doses will be prioritized for health and essential workers, and other at-risk groups. This important milestone will allow Ghana to get back to business, and build back our economy even stronger than before.”

The deliveries mark the start of what will be the largest, most rapid and complex global rollout of vaccines in history. In total, COVAX aims to deliver at least two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021, including at least 1.3 billion to the 92 economies eligible for support through the COVAX AMC.

Confirmation of first-round allocations, covering the majority of the COVAX Facility participants, will be published March 2, 2021. COVAX doses to date have been delivered by SII to India, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, while Pfizer-BioNTech has delivered doses to the Republic of Korea. More deliveries by these two manufacturers are planned in the coming days, with 11 million doses in total planned to be delivered over the next seven days. In addition, AstraZeneca is set to commence shipments this week.

COVAX, the overarching effort to accelerate development and access to COVID vaccines, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO) working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, manufacturers and civil society organizations, and others.

“This is a day many of us have been dreaming of and working for more than 12 months,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. “It’s gratifying to see the fruit of that labour. But success is still to come. This is only the beginning of what COVAX was set up to achieve. We have a lot left to do to realize our vision to start vaccination in all countries within the first 100 days of the year. There are just 40 days left.”

“As vaccination begins in Côte D’Ivoire, less than a year after COVID-19 was characterized as a global pandemic, I am filled with confidence, and I am sure that through COVAX and international solidarity we will be able to reach the most at-risk everywhere. Global equitable access to life-saving vaccines is the surest way to save lives and rebuild economies. I would like to thank all donors and also the leadership of the G7 group of nations. Nowadays vaccine policy is the best economic policy,” said José Manuel Barroso, chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

“The last year has been a dark one for families all over the world, but the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines provided a hopeful light at the end of the tunnel. [Today] the COVAX Facility begins to make good on its promise to make sure that light shines for all,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. “This unprecedented global effort has rallied the international community behind identifying acceptable vaccines, raising funds to procure them, and laying the groundwork for the world’s largest immunization campaign in history. Now, these vaccines are quickly reaching people in low and middle-income countries, many of which would have been left behind without the Facility’s work. This proves what we can accomplish when we all – the private sector, UN and development agencies, governments, donors, and other partners – work as one.”

“This is a historic day in the global fight against COVID-19. [Today’s] vaccinations in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana are among the first to be delivered through COVAX, which will protect many hundreds of millions of those most at risk from COVID-19, wherever they are in the world.” said Dr Richard Hatchett, chief executive officer of CEPI. “In the coming days and weeks, COVAX will begin to redress the global imbalance in vaccine deployment, but there is still much to do. The spread of new COVID-19 variants means global access to vaccines is more important than ever before, and the global community must remain firmly focused on this goal if we are to bring the pandemic to an end.”

“The first COVAX vaccine deliveries in West and Central Africa were a huge first step towards equity and a demonstration of global solidarity,” said UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa Marie-Pierre Poirier. “A few days after the vaccine doses landed, we are already celebrating the first COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, starting [today] March 1 in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, aimed at protecting the most vulnerable. We are proud that countries in West and Central Africa were ready from the get-go. UNICEF is active on the ground, together with WHO and other partners, to support the roll-out of the vaccination campaigns until everyone is safe.“

The start of Africa’s biggest immunization drive in history through the COVAX Facility marks a step forward in the continent’s fight against COVID-19. It is a welcome shift towards bringing African countries off the sidelines and back into the vaccination race, correcting the glaring inequity which has been an unfortunate hallmark of the global vaccine rollout to date. For months WHO teams in the region and partners have been supporting countries to plan and prepare for the complex challenges of such a massive vaccination campaign. We now look forward to seeing these plans put into action with an effective and efficient vaccine rollout,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.



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