Op-ed by U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie S. Sullivan
Under the dire circumstances of this pandemic that has taken such a heavy toll on the world, the United States is grateful that Ghana is now better equipped to combat the virus. We welcomed the arrival of 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine through COVAX on February 24, 2021. On that day, I joined the Honorable Minister for Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, UNICEF and WHO country representatives, as well as Ambassadors of the UK, EU, Spain, and Italy to witness the delivery at Kotoka International Airport. This shipment was the first globally under COVAX, a global initiative to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and was the first of millions more doses expected to arrive in Ghana this year.
Based on the principles of equity, transparency, and common humanity, COVAX is a global solution to a global challenge.
Bilateral donations of vaccines will not be sufficient or fast enough to end this pandemic. As such, the United States is leading by example as the largest contributor to COVAX, already having provided $2 billion and pledged an additional $2 billion in funds to Gavi in support of the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC). This week, on April 15, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Gavi are hosting the Gavi COVAX AMC One World Protected Launch Event with more than 100 contributing and beneficiary nations. His Excellency President Akufo-Addo was invited to participate in this important forum that is galvanizing the global community and industry to give generously to COVAX so that we can ensure global vaccine coverage.
Proven safe and effective vaccines are our most effective tool in combating the pandemic, and the United States is proud to support COVAX, which uses only vaccines that have been rigorously tested and proven to be safe and effective.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that an infectious disease outbreak anywhere is a threat to people everywhere. This pandemic is one of the most pressing challenges to the health, well-being, and economic security of our time, and the global community must unite to end it.
We have entered a new phase in the fight to end the pandemic. While it seemed highly impossible a year ago, unprecedented partnerships between governments, nongovernmental organizations, academia, and the private sector have brought several WHO-authorized safe, effective, and life-saving COVID-19 vaccines to market, with more pending approval.
U.S. investments in COVAX support the purchase and delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for the world’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations in 92 low- and middle-income countries. This support is critical to controlling the pandemic, slowing the emergence of new variants, and helping to restart the global economy. Global access to COVID-19 vaccines is critical to reduce the tragic loss of life, to control and end the pandemic, to mitigate the ongoing health and economic impacts, and to keep people safe across the globe.
The United States is committed to collaborating with partners, governments, and the private sector to support global COVID-19 vaccination efforts and to ensure COVAX’s success. We are pleased to join Ghana’s Ministry of Health and partners in the international community to fight this pandemic together.
The United States has worked closely with Ghana since the start of the pandemic and has contributed more than $4.6 million and reallocated an additional $19 million to further aid the COVID-19 response in Ghana, in addition to U.S. contributions to COVAX.
To support Ghana’s COVID-19 response, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has supported the Ministry of Health to train health workers in COVID-19 critical care and to disseminate social and behavior change messages to increase knowledge and awareness around COVID-19, including increasing the number of people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine and deliver life-saving supplies and commodities across the country. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided critical technical assistance to strengthen contact tracing, surveillance, and laboratory activities. The U.S. Department of Defense has coordinated donations of personal protective equipment and medical supplies to aid frontline health care workers as well as testing supplies to increase Ghana’s testing capacity. The United States also facilitated the Ghana Armed Forces redeployment of one of the two U.S.-donated state-of-the-art peacekeeping field hospitals into a COVID-19 treatment facility. And recently, the U.S. government’s Power Africa initiative supported the electrification of 65 health facilities in the Ashanti region with solar power, enabling the facilities to operate at night, diversify their services, and ensure a vaccine cold chain that extends into rural areas. The United States Government has also made a $3.5 billion dollar contribution to the Global Fund specifically for the COVID-19 response, of which Ghana will soon access up to $70 million to address the pandemic.
These investments and commitments build on a long tradition. Over the past two decades, the United States has provided more than $140 billion in global health assistance. We are the world’s largest contributor to the international response to COVID-19. Additionally, the U.S. private sector has been generous, throughout the world and here in Ghana, where American Chamber of Commerce members like Coca-Cola, Newmont, Kosmos Energy, Mastercard, and many other U.S. firms have donated equipment, meals, and financial resources to bolster the Ghanaian government’s efforts to stop the virus.
Longstanding health partnerships and investments in Ghana, including through the Global Health Security Agenda, President’s Malaria Initiative, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, have provided the technical expertise and critical infrastructure needed to bolster preparedness and rapidly respond to COVID-19 to control the pandemic and save lives.
The United States is also committed to working with Ghana and our partners the world over as we lead the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and launch a sustained and inclusive recovery.