Masked guests are seen in Accra, Ghana, on January 7 at the official inauguration of President Nana Akufo-Addo. The African nation began to receive doses of a coronavirus vaccine from the global COVAX program. File Photo by Christian Thompson/EPA-EFE
Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Ghana on Wednesday became the first country in the world to receive coronavirus vaccines from the international COVAX program, which aims to inoculate some of the poorest and middle-income areas.
Some 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India reached the Ghana capital of Accra for distribution, officials said.
COVAX, short for COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, is an effort led by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
"This is a momentous occasion, as the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines into Ghana is critical in bringing the pandemic to an end," UNICEF Representative Anne-Claire Dufay and Ghana World Health Organization Representative Dr. Francis Kasolo said in a joint statement.
"The only way out of this crisis is to ensure that vaccinations are available for all."
Ghana has seen record numbers of coronavirus cases in recent weeks. To date, almost 81,000 cases and 600 related deaths have been recorded in the African nation, according to Johns Hopkins University.
"Vaccines save lives," Dufay and Kasolo added. "As health workers and other front-line staff are vaccinated, we will be able to gradually see a return to normalcy, including better access to health, education and protection services.
"In the spirit of universal health coverage, let's leave no one behind."
Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden committed $2 billion to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and COVAX to improve global access to the vaccines.