The African Union (AU) has handed over 177,600 single-shot vaccines procured under the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) to the government of Ghana for the covid-19 vaccination programme in the country today August 7, 2021.
The vaccine doses are being produced on the African continent at the Aspen Pharmacare facility in Gqeberha in South Africa.
The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) is an initiative by the AU member states to pool their financial resources to collectively purchase vaccines to safeguard the health of the African population. As such, AVAT acts as a centralised purchasing agent on behalf of the African Union member states, to secure the necessary vaccines and blended financial resources for achieving Africa’s covid-19 vaccination strategy which targets vaccinating a minimum of sixty (60) per cent of Africa’s population based on a whole-of-Africa approach.
The AVAT, on March 28, 2021 signed an agreement for the purchase of 220 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson single-shot covid-19 vaccine, with the potential to order an additional 180 million doses.
Receiving the vaccines on Saturday August 7, 2021, the deputy minister for health, madam Tina Mensah stated that “the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was selected by AVAT for the first pooled procurement because it is a single-shot vaccine, easier and cheaper to administer, it has long shelf-life and favourable storage conditions. In addition, the vaccine is partly manufactured on the African continent, with fill-finish activities taking place in South Africa”.
She added that “the number one priority of the government of Ghana is to build a resilient health care system for the people of Ghana. In this connection, the Ministry of Health has continuously initiated programmes and projects to improve the delivery of health care services. One of the major initiatives of the Ministry during this pandemic was the plan and subsequent procurement of additional cold storage facilities to achieve self-sufficiency and resilience in the cold-chain system required for covid-19 vaccines as well as the other vaccines”.
On Thursday August 4, 2021, the Minister for Health, Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu handed over 58 ultra-low temperature vaccine freezers, 50 normal vaccine fridges, 3,000 ice pack freezers, and 300 cold boxes to the Ghana health service for the continuation of the covid-19 vaccination programme. An additional 18 distribution cold Van’s to support the distribution of the vaccines is expected to arrive soon.
The director of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Kumah Aboagye said “we are hoping that for us to get over this third wave, we have more doses in a very short time to be able to get our hotspots contained so that we manage the spread”.
He assured the public that once the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), which has taken custody of the vaccines, approves it for use, the vaccines will be administered to those who need it.
The AVAT on August 5, 2021, started the first monthly shipment of the vaccines to the several member states. A total of 6.4million doses of the vaccine is expected to be shipped in August. About 50million vaccine will be delivered to member state before the end of December this year. The Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) in collaboration with UNICEF is providing logistical and delivery services to the member states.
The director of banking operations at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Mr. Kwabena Ayirebi said “the deliveries are part of the historic covid-19 vaccine advance procurement agreement signed on March 28, 2021 by AVAT for the purchase of 220 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson single-shot covid-19 vaccine, with the potential to order additional 180 million doses”.
“The agreement and the start of deliveries mark the first time that the African Union member states have collectively purchased vaccines to safeguard the health of the African population. In total, the 400 million vaccines acquired by AVAT are sufficient to immunise a third of the African population”. He added
Ghana is among the first ten African countries to receive vaccines through this partnership. World Bank financing has been mobilized to support both the acquisition and equitable deployment of vaccines. Under the additional credit of 200 million dollars for the Ghana covid-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Project, the World Bank is contributing towards financing a total of 16.9 million vaccine doses through AVAT.
In addition, the project is helping to strengthen vaccine deployment so that doses translate into effective and equitable vaccinations. This includes support to logistics and cold chain, needed supplies to carry out vaccination, training vaccination teams, and demand generation activities.