A mass vaccination effort against COVID-19 is getting underway in Africa this week through the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative.
The Ivory Coast and Ghana on Monday began vaccinating health care and essential workers with the AstraZeneca vaccine provided to low- and middle-income countries, which have difficulty acquiring doses because of the limited global supply and logistical problems.
Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo said the COVAX vaccine represents a milestone to get the country back to business and re-build the economy.
Ghana is reporting more than 84,000 coronavirus infections and 607 deaths, while the Ivory Coast has confirmed more than 32,700 coronavirus infections and 192 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University COVID Resource Center.
The WHO said 24 other African countries still trying to control the spread the coronavirus are expected to begin receiving doses of the vaccine this week through the COVAX program.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the roll out of the first batches of vaccine is just the beginning of what COVAX aims to achieve, citing it is the agency’s goal of starting vaccination in all countries within the first 100 days of this year.
Additionally, Colombia became the first country in the Americas to use vaccines from COVAX on Monday.
Colombian authorities say the first batch of the Pfizer vaccine will be used on the most vulnerable population.
Colombia, which already has a vaccination program, has confirmed more than 174,000 infections and 6,482 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University Covid Resource Center.