COVID-19 vaccination continues Wednesday; 360,000 to receive jabs

BY: Kwame Asare Boadu
COVID-19 vaccination continues Wednesday - 360,000 to receive jabs
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

Three hundred and sixty-thousand people who received their first COVID-19 jabs between March 1 and 9, 2021 will be eligible for shots during the deployment of the second dose of vaccines from May 19 to May 26.

The nine-day exercise is the third phase of the national vaccination programme against COVID-19.

Those who will receive the jabs are in the 43 districts in the Greater Accra, Ashanti and Central regions, that were covered in the first phase of the exercise.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who made this known yesterday in his 25th address to the nation on the country’s enhanced response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the vaccines for the exercise - comprised 350,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines recently received under the COVAX initiative and existing stock.

The President explained that the upcoming vaccination, which came approximately 12 weeks after the first jab, was within the time frame prescribed by science.

He said more details of the deployment would be communicated by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) this week.

The President added that efforts were being made to ensure that those who received their first jab after March 9 would, in due course, also receive their second jab.

“Let us take the vaccine when it gets to our turn,” he added.

First & second phases

The President further explained that two phases of vaccination were rolled out with the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX facility.

“The first phase involved vaccinating a segment of the population in 43 districts, who included health workers, persons with co-morbidities, persons above the age of 60, physically challenged persons, journalists, frontline security personnel, and a cross-section of persons in the three arms of government.

“The second phase involved vaccination of other health workers across the country. Nearly a million people have now received the first dose of the vaccine, “ he said.

President Akufo-Addo said international vaccine politics and the unpredictability of the supply chain, as well as the third wave of infections in some countries in Europe and Asia, prevented the country from securing enough vaccines to scale up the exercise.

Nevertheless, he said, the government was still focused on achieving its target to vaccinate some 20 million Ghanaians of the adult population, by the end of the year.

“We are expecting an additional 300,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines, which have already been approved by the Food and Drugs Authority, to arrive in the country.

“As and when we make further progress in the acquisition of vaccines, the Ministries of Health and Information will make it known to you. We are making all efforts to achieve our overall vaccination target,” the President said.

Limiting importation

President Akufo-Addo said the objective of the government was to limit the importation of the virus in the country from the onset.

“Consequently, when we reopened Kotoka International Airport (KIA), our aim was to ensure that, as much as possible, arriving passengers do not carry the virus, and to establish a testing regime at KIA to help us pick up passengers who have the virus, and prevent them from introducing it into our population,” he said.

However, about three weeks ago, the KIA recorded a significant increase in the number of passengers who tested positive for COVID-19, a development he attributed partly to the third wave of the virus in the countries of embarkation, and also challenges in attesting to the authenticity of COVID-19 PCR certification being presented at airports around the world.

President Akufo-Addo, however, indicated that the increase in positive tests from passengers arriving at KIA had since declined considerably.

“Nonetheless, it is still necessary for us, in Ghana, to find a way to secure further our borders and attain our objective of limiting the importation of the virus.

“To prevent fake COVID-19 PCR certificates being used to enter our country, government, through the Ministry of Health, has begun the process of digitising PCR test results to ensure ease of verification. The technology platform being used at KIA is based on standards set by the Africa Trust Travel and ECOWAS Biomars. All travellers arriving in Ghana must have test results or certificates bearing the trusted travel or biomars codes to be acceptable at KIA,” he said.

Furthermore, the President said, there had been a re-evaluation of quality checks on testing at KIA, and so far, the sensitivity and specificity of the testing regime there had been refreshing.

“All arriving passengers who test positive will follow the laid down procedure. Those who test negative from designated COVID-19 hotspots, and testing negative at KIA, may be subjected to a repeat test on the third day of arrival,” he said.

Travel risk

Aware of the havoc the virus was wreaking in Asia and South America in the form of rising infections and huge death tolls, the President stressed the need for all to be mindful of the risks of travelling to and from those areas at this period.

On that score, he stated: “ I want to reiterate, as captured in the travel directive jointly issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and the Ghana Health Service, that all non-essential trips to countries with high COVID-19 infection rates should either be cancelled or postponed.

“There will be plenty of time, God willing, for such trips in the future. We will continue to review our travel restriction measures. “

Protocols

On case counts, the President said the number of persons with the virus reduced from 5,444 in February, 26 to 1,314 as of May 11, while infections dropped from 400 a day to 100, with recoveries increasing from 77,972 to 91,146 within the same period. In addition, 176 more persons lost their lives to COVID-19.

Cumulatively, the President said,1,121,168 COVID-19 tests had been conducted.

President Akufo-Addo said it was gratifying that many Ghanaians were adhering to the preventive protocols, the same way as the law enforcement agencies were acting against persons and institutions flouting the regulations.

Nonetheless, he stated: “Until we vaccinate the requisite numbers of Ghanaians, and achieve herd immunity, which will help return our lives to normalcy, the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012) will remain in force, and the security agencies will not relent in their efforts to enforce it.”

Cinemas and theatres

In a move towards the reopening of cinemas and theatres, the President said the government had engaged cinema owners and operators on a set of protocols and guidelines that needed to be put in place and implemented by all operators before eventual reopening.

Consequently, in the coming weeks, the GHS and the Ghana Tourism Authority will announce the protocols and mandatory modalities, and work with the operators on a set of directives that will ensure the health and safety of all patrons and staff in all the facilities involved.

“I remain optimistic that we can return our lives to normal if we cooperate and work together,” he stated.