Ghana has become the first country to receive Covid-19 vaccines through the Covax vaccine-sharing initiative.
A delivery of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Accra on February 24. The first recipients are due to be healthcare workers.
The Covax scheme aims to reduce the divide between rich countries and poorer nations unable to buy doses.
The program is planning to deliver about two billion vaccine doses globally by the end of the year.
Ghana, which has a population of over 30 million, was chosen as the first recipient of the free vaccines after promising quick distribution and meeting the criteria set by Covax.
Further deliveries are expected to neighboring Ivory Coast later this week, the Covax alliance says.
Vaccinations are expected to start in Ghana next week, and, as well as health workers, those over 60, people with underlying health conditions, and senior officials are due to be prioritized.
The vaccines delivered to Accra were produced by the Serum Institute of India and developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The vaccine has been approved by the WHO and its roll-out in Ghana is not part of a trial.
The doses being sent to lower-income countries such as Ghana are funded by donations. As well as procuring and delivering the vaccines, Covax partners are supporting local authorities in areas such as training people to administer the vaccine and helping provide an adequate cold-chain storage and delivery system.
Many nations in the developed world, which began their own vaccinations months ago, have faced criticism for buying or ordering more vaccines than they need.
However, many of those countries placed orders for doses with pharmaceutical companies before knowing whether the vaccine in development would be effective. They were hedging their bets – placing multiple orders in the hope that at least some of them would work out.
The Covax scheme is led by the WHO and also involves the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
In a joint statement, the WHO and the United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) said it was a momentous occasion and “critical in bringing the pandemic to an end”.
Melcom department store has collapsed in Ghana’s capital, Accra, with dozens of people believed to be trapped inside.
Rescue efforts are under way, with officials saying that at least three people died in the multi-storey Melcom store.
Ten people have been pulled alive from the rubble so far.
Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama said he had suspended his campaign for next month’s election.
The government has declared the area in the city’s Achimota neighborhood a disaster zone.
Vice-President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur is at the site, co-ordinating rescue efforts at the building, which opened earlier this year.
Hundreds of rescuers are digging through the rubble, amid fears that dozens of people are trapped inside, our correspondent says.
Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur said the building collapsed shortly before the Melcom store was due to open for business.
Rescue efforts were being hampered by the large crowd that had gathered at the site, he added.
Melcom department store has collapsed in Ghana’s capital, Accra, with dozens of people believed to be trapped inside
“There’s so much noise that it’s not possible to hear the trapped people asking for help,” Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur said.
“If we could move out of here, it could help rescue operations.”
In a statement on its Facebook page, Melcom said it had rented the building which housed its Achimota branch on a 10-year lease.
“This is indeed a very tragic incident,” it said.
“We are doing everything possible to see that help reaches those who need it. Our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies goes to the families of those who may have lost their lives.”
Customers often queue outside the store before it opens and officials say they believe about 50 people may been inside at the time of the collapse.
Eyewitness Ama Okyere told the AFP news agency she was very close to the shopping centre when the building came down.
“I had to run for my life. I was so terrified. I believe there are lots of people trapped under this because this is a heavily patronized shopping mall in the area.”
Family members have been trying to call relatives feared trapped beneath the rubble on their mobile phones, AFP reports.
Another witness, John Owusu, said he heard a bang before the building collapsed.
President John Dramani Mahama, in a tweet moments after the building collapsed, said: “My prayers are with the workers, shoppers and others who are trapped in the rubble of the Achimota Melcom building.”
He has cut short his campaign in the north of the country and is flying back to Accra.
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