Ghana has today become the first country outside India to receive AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine doses manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) under the COVAX Facility.
Serum delivered 600,000 doses of Covishield vaccines from Pune to Accra in Ghana. The vaccines arrived on a flight from Mumbai, via Dubai, where the flight also collected a shipment of syringes from a Gavi-funded stockpile at UNICEF's regional supply hub. This is the first batch shipped and delivered in Africa by the COVAX Facility as part of an unprecedented effort to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021, said the World Health Organisation. A day ago, a top WHO official also had said Serum would soon deliver vaccines for over 25-30 countries.
"This is a historic step towards our goal to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history," said WHO.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others and plans are to supply the vaccines to over 90 poor and developing countries.
Adar Poonawalla, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SII, had tweeted on Sunday asking other countries and governments to wait for the vaccine supplies, as Serum Institute of India has been directed to prioritise the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world. India is preparing to launch second phase of vaccination drive, covering its 27 crore elderly people, soon. In the first phase over 1.17 crore doses of Serum and Bharat Biotech's vaccines have been administered so far to over a crore of healthcare and frontline workers.
Serum had received an 'at-risk' funding of about Rs 1,300 crore from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi during the early stages of vaccine development for Covishield and another vaccine being developed with Novovax. Serum's plans were to reserve half of initial production for India and send remaining doses to COVAX as per the arrangement.