COVID-19 vaccine procurement constraints unfortunate — Ofori-Atta

BY: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila
 Mr Ken Ofori-Atta — Finance Minister
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta — Finance Minister

The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, has described the challenges associated with the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines by developing countries as unfortunate and embarrassing.

He said even though the government had set aside about $150 million from its own resources for the procurement of the vaccines, it could not be achieved due to the prevailing challenges which the minister said was a drawback to the global efforts to contain the pandemic.

“I think that the vaccine supply issues have been quite embarrassing and you can see that the world is now moving very quickly to ensure that there is some vaccine equity, going forward,” he added.

According to Mr Ofori-Atta, the constraints had further slowed down efforts by developing countries, including Ghana, to reduce the spread of the pandemic which was also dragging the global economic recovery drive.

The minister was speaking to the media on the country’s effort to acquire vaccines independent of the philanthropic support by global and continental bodies to procure vaccines for developing countries in Accra last Monday.

The minister’s comments come on the heels of recent revelation by the Ministry of Health that the country was unable to procure Sputnik-V vaccines directly from Russia.

The sector Minister, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, said last month that the difficulty compelled the government to procure the vaccine through a middleman at a cost of $19 per dose, compared to the international price of $10 per dose.

Preparedness

Mr Ofori-Atta said the country was well prepared to procure, receive and deploy the vaccines to combat the spread of the virus in record time.

He said this was demonstrated by opening of letters of credit (LCs) with appropriate financial institutions which were awaiting signals from producers and suppliers for payment to be made.

“I think for Ghana, we have done what is right except that it is a supply issue and once that is addressed, we will be good to go,” the minister said.

The United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have both called for equitable distribution of the vaccines, especially to developing countries to help ensure a holistic eradication of the virus for a rebound in the global economy.

And in February this year, the Secretary-General of the UN, Mr António Guterres, told the Security Council that: “If the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the global south, it will mutate again and again. This can prolong the pandemic significantly, enabling the virus to come back to plague the global north.”

Herd immunity

On achieving herd immunity against the virus, the minister said the latest loan of $200 million from the World Bank Group would go a long way to augment the procurement of vaccines to realise the goal.

“Last week or 10 days ago, the United States of America (USA) also had a bilateral relation with a number of African countries to offer additional 1.3 million doses of vaccines to us. They already gave 15 million doses of the vaccines to the continent and our share of that is coming.

“So my hope and suspicion really is that from the end of this week into next week, we will have a constant supply to be able to finish the second dose which would move us on to regular supplies. “And as you know, our capacity to deploy is way above other African countries,” Mr Ofori-Atta said.

The country received its first consignment of the vaccines in March this year and administered more than 200,000 doses in that month.

As of June, 2021, more than 1.2 million doses had been administered across the nation.