Ghana is likely to take delivery of a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic before the close of the first quarter of 2021.
This follows a breakthrough in the development of vaccines for the raging pandemic and their approval by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has paved the way for some countries hard hit by the pandemic to begin administering the vaccines to some of their people.
In an interview, the Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Franklyn Asiedu Bekoe, said Ghana was likely to take delivery of COVID-19 vaccines before the close of the first quarter of next year.
“We’re not going to get all at once; it will come and continue coming. But, hopefully, let’s say by the end of the first quarter of 2021, we will start getting the vaccines,” he said.
Dr Bekoe said the distribution of the vaccines would be based on data being generated by the GHS on the pandemic.
“If you look at our data in terms of the disease state and death, you’ll realise that there are variants. The common population that gets the disease or infection is between 20 and 49.
“So for a country like Ghana, it means that that facility will get us up to about six million and it will be made available in the country in ‘sequential flow’,” he said.
The GHS Director of Public Health further indicated that the team set up by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to drive Ghana’s access to the vaccine had recommended that more vulnerable groups and persons who were at higher risk, such as health workers, be given priority during COVID-19 vaccination.
He stressed that the whole population was at risk and so the vaccine distribution would be done in segments.
President Akufo-Addo, in his 20th address on the COVID-19 to the nation, gave an assurance that the government would ensure that COVID-19 vaccines to be deployed in the country were effective and safe.
He said he was not oblivious of the anxieties relating to the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and assuaged all fears that the twin ingredients of safety and efficacy would hold sway in all that the government did with respect to the procurement and application of the vaccines.
He said to that end, he had put together a team of experts from the relevant institutions and agencies who were working assiduously towards the procurement and deployment of the vaccines.
The President said the recent approval given by the Food and Drugs Administration of the United States of America and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency of the United Kingdom had brought considerable optimism and hope to the world in the battle to defeat the pandemic.
Signing on to COVAX
The Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, said as a build-up to accessing the vaccines, Ghana had made a request to a vaccine pooling organisation, the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, for COVID-19 vaccines.
He said the facility, through the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI), would provide vaccines that could serve 20 per cent of the population.
Addressing a press briefing by the government on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country in Accra yesterday, he said the team of experts commissioned by the President to oversee the procurement and deployment of the vaccines was currently reviewing other vaccine candidates from where additional vaccines could be accessed to meet any additional national demand.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said the team of experts was currently reviewing the target groups that would need the vaccines and the number of vaccine candidates.
He explained that the health sector was working with all its partners to ensure that only effective and safe vaccines were brought in, and gave an assurance that no human vaccine trial would be carried out in the country.
The COVAX facility is a global initiative to help countries have the opportunity to benefit from a portfolio of vaccine candidates, so that their populations can have early access to effective vaccines.
It brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure that eventually approved COVID-19 vaccines reach those in greatest need, whoever they are and wherever they live.
For governments that do not have bilateral agreements, the COVAX Facility offers a reliable supply of safe and efficacious vaccines.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye cautioned that activities carried out during the Christmas festivities could become a threat to the gains made in the fight against the global pandemic if individuals and event organisers did not ensure strict adherence to the safety protocols.
He called on event organisers and churches to ensure that auditoriums were well ventilated, while ensuring that social distancing of between one and two metres was adhered to.
“Let us spell out explicitly the safety protocols that patrons of our churches and events have to follow. If possible, give out face masks as souvenirs to ensure everyone is wearing one for maximum protection,” he said.
He said in the absence of a vaccine, adhering strictly to the safety protocols was the most effective management tool and called on the public never to get tired of the new normal.
“Let us continue to wear our face masks anytime we step out. We should not be touching the masks while they are on, and if it happens that we do, let us wash our hands or sanitise immediately,” he advised.
He further advised that a disposable mask should not be used for more than 12 hours, while every cloth mask should be washed, dried in the sun and ironed after every single use.
He reminded the public to frequently wash their hands with soap under clean running water for at least 20 seconds and intermittently, or in the absence of hand-washing facilities, sanitise the hands with at least 70 per cent alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
“Let us remember to cough only into face masks, flexed elbows or disposable tissues. Dispose of tissues immediately into a closed bin and wash hands immediately.
“Observe social distancing, avoid overcrowded places and do not touch mouth, eyes and nose with unclean hands,” he said.