The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has said that the protection one gets after taking the first dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine can last for between six to 11 months, and therefore people who are awaiting their second dose should exercise restraint amid challenges the nation is facing to get supplies from various entities.

Many people who took the first dose last month and are scheduled for the second dose this month to enhance their level of immunity against the virus are on edge, as the nation is struggling to get the vaccines. According to the GHS, a lot of effort is being put into surmounting the challenge.

So far, one million doses of vaccines have been dispensed but the nation is targetting to vaccinate 20 million people by end of the year to achieve herd-immunity – which is the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.

Head of the National Immunisation Programme at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, in an interview with the B&FT said that even though there is a challenge in getting the vaccines, the nations herd-immunity plan is on course as the first dose can offer protection for about 11-months.

“One thing about the vaccine is that protection lasts for quite a long time. Reading the literature, you can get a minimum of 6-months to 11-months. What I am saying is that within the timelines, I think we have enough time to achieve herd-immunity. If we prolong vaccination to the end of 2022 then herd-immunity becomes a difficulty; but if we are looking at end of year or first quarter 2022, then we still have that long period for us to achieve herd-immunity. But all these will hinge on how quickly the vaccines come,” Dr. Amponsa-Achiano said.

Challenges

One of the nation’s current challenges is inability of the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) to meet its timelines as stipulated for the distribution of vaccines in the country.

After receiving some 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India (Covishield) in late February, another consignment is yet to come. Meanwhile, other stakeholders through bilateral, multilateral and private entities are being engaged by government to support the supply of vaccines to the nation.

This challenge is said to be born out of the priority of countries producing the vaccines to take care of themselves before exporting to other nations. “There is a lot of vaccine-nationalism now, but eventually they will all understand that until a high number of the world population gets immunised no one is safe – and from there they will apportion the vaccines appropriately to ensure that herd-immunity is not only achieved in any one country but globally,” Dr. Amponsa-Achiano said.

He is confident that COVAX will meet its target, but not on the timelines stipulated from the word go. He further explained that COVAX expects vaccines from India to be distributed to all the countries which have signed onto it – but the lack of supply is what has affected the timelines, as India is producing to vaccinate its own people.

But from the experience of Israel, where they opted to buy a dose for about US$40 – way above market price – countries are aware of the fact that financial commitment is key to ensuring the early receipt of vaccines. Israel, through this means, has been able to vaccinate over 60 percent of its population.

Source: thebftonline.com