The first shots of coronavirus vaccines from the COVAX programme were given to people in the Ivory Coast on Monday.
Jabs were being given to health workers, teachers and members of the armed forces at the Treichville Sports Palace in the commercial capital, Abidjan, where 95% of the country’s cases have been recorded, according to the health ministry.
The COVAX initiative, formed to ensure fair access to vaccines by low- and middle-income countries, has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses and logistical problems.
The drive is using 504,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India.
Some 24 other African countries are expected to start receiving vaccines via COVAX this week, according to the World Health Organization’s Africa office, in what is the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
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% of the population.
Like many African countries, Ivory Coast recently battled a resurgence of the pandemic that saw increased cases and hospitalisations.
It has recorded 32,754 cases and 192 deaths since its first case was recorded on March 11, 2020, according to the Africa Centres 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.