Ivory Coast begins COVID-19 inoculations with shots from COVAX initiative

Ivory Coast has begun giving shots to inoculate against COVID-19 with vaccines delivered last week by the global COVAX initiative, which was created to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to doses.

Ivory Coast among 92 countries, 25 in Africa, that will receive free vaccines in the COVAX initiative

An Ivory Coast police officer receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the palais des sports in Abidjan on Monday. It's hoped that around 25 nations will begin vaccination campaigns in the next week through the COVAX initiative, created to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to doses. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

Ivory Coast has begun giving shots to inoculate against COVID-19 with vaccines delivered last week by the global COVAX initiative, which was created to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to doses.

The West African country's mass vaccination campaign started Monday with jabs being given to health workers, teachers, and members of the armed forces at the Treichville Sports Palace in the commercial capital, Abidjan, where 95 per cent of the country's cases have been recorded, according to the health ministry.

The drive is using 504,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India. Some 24 other African countries are expected to start receiving vaccines via COVAX this week in what is the world's largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to WHO and UNICEF.

The COVAX initiative, however, has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses as well as logistical problems that delayed the global distribution of the vaccines.

Ivory Coast's Health Minister Eugene Aka Aouele said the first phase of the campaign will target more than 250,000 people. He said the nation aims to vaccinate more than 5.6 million people, or 20 per cent of the population.

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Like many African countries, Ivory Coast recently battled a resurgence of the pandemic that saw increased cases and hospitalizations. It has recorded 32,754 cases and 192 deaths since its first case was recorded on March 11, 2020, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures.

The resurgence is now declining, as the 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ivory Coast has dropped over the past two weeks, going from 0.71 new cases per 100,000 people on Feb. 14 to 0.39 new cases per 100,000 people on Feb. 28, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Safety assurances

As Ivory Coast's inoculation campaign begins, health authorities are encouraging people to participate in the voluntary program.

"I reassure people that the vaccine in Ivory Coast is safe," Director General of Health Mamadou Samba said Sunday on national television. "There is no doubt about the quality of the vaccines the Ivory Coast has received. There is a committee within us which takes care of this."

Ivory Coast is among 92 countries that will receive vaccines for free through the COVAX initiative, which is led by the World Health Organization (WHO); Gavi, a vaccine group; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. Another 90 countries and eight territories have agreed to pay for doses.

"This is a day many of us have been dreaming of and working for more than 12 months," said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement.

"It's gratifying to see the fruit of that labour. But success is still to come. This is only the beginning of what COVAX was set up to achieve. We have a lot left to do to realize our vision to start vaccination in all countries within the first 100 days of the year. There are just 40 days left."

Ghana to begin campaign this week

Ghana, which neighbours Ivory Coast, is slated to begin its vaccination campaign Tuesday or Wednesday, after being the first country to receive COVAX vaccines last week with a delivery of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Ghana's President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his wife got the first jabs Monday to assure the public of the safety of the vaccines.

"There are still some who continue to express doubts about the vaccine, others have expressed reservations about its efficacy, with some taking sides with conspiracy theorists who believe the vaccine has been created to wipe out the African race," he said, in a nation-wide broadcast Sunday night.

"Taking the vaccine will not alter your DNA, it will not embed a tracking device in your body, neither will it cause infertility in women or in men."

He said Ghana's Food and Drug Administration would not approve the vaccines for use if it had any reservations about its safety, adding that, "no vaccine will be deployed in the country for use without the express certification of the FDA."

Ghana's campaign from March 2 to 15 will take place in 43 districts that are the epicentre of the pandemic there.

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Mixed reactions

Ghanaians have mixed reactions to the vaccine.

Adwoa Bio, an unemployed graduate told AP, she wants to see Ghana's leaders get the vaccines first.

"I am torn between trusting that it would save me from coronavirus or going along with my parents who have said they will not get vaccinated," she said.

She complained about the late arrival of the vaccines that could have saved the lives of many people who have died.

"It is true that vaccines have helped mankind in the past, but it looks like there have been a lot of conspiracy theories against the vaccines for COVID-19 and the government would have to really put in place a public education program to change the mindset of the people, otherwise, many people will run away from it."

With files from CBC News

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