Good evening, and thank you for welcoming me into your homes once again. You are doing so on one of the sacred days of our nation, 28th February, when the 1948 Christiansborg Crossroads shooting occurred seventy-three (73) years ago, which led to the martyrdoms of Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe, and Private Odartey Lamptey, martyrdoms that ignited the nationalist movement, and led us to the freedom we enjoy today.
Let us observe a moment’s silence in honour of their memory, and the memory of all the faithful departed patriots who helped create our nation. May their souls rest in perfect peace.
Fellow Ghanaians, since I last spoke to you, a month ago, a significant development in our fight against COVID-19 has taken place in our country.
In the course of this week, Wednesday, 24th February, to be precise, we took another concrete step in our quest to rid our nation of COVID-19, with the arrival in the country of six hundred thousand (600,000) doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first consignment of many more to come.
I indicated in Update No. 23 that the earliest vaccine would be in the country by March. However, by dint of hard work and sheer determination, Government was able to secure the first batch of vaccine doses in February, a month ahead of schedule. We are the first country in the world to be recipients of vaccines from the COVAX Facility, and I want to express my appreciation to members of the COVID-19 Taskforce, which I chair, and to officials of the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service for this commendable feat.
The vaccine deployment plan we submitted to WHO, which unlocked this consignment, was well-received. They have done a yeoman’s job, and our nation is indebted to them. We are grateful, also, naturally, to the contributors and managers of the COVAX Facility.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is one of two (2) vaccines that have, so far, been approved and declared as safe-for-use by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA). With the process of certification currently ongoing for the other vaccines, the range of vaccines available to us will increase. This will facilitate our ability to reach our target of vaccinating twenty million Ghanaians by the end of this year.
Through the National Vaccine Deployment Plan, our population has been segmented into four groups, and this will determine which section of the population gets vaccinated at a particular time.
Group 1 is categorised as “persons most at risk and frontline State officials”. It includes healthcare workers, frontline security personnel, persons with underlying medical conditions, persons sixty (60) years and above, and frontline members of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
Group 2 is made up of other essential service providers and the rest of the security agencies. It includes water and electricity supply services, teachers and students, supply and distribution of fuels, farmers and food value chain, telecommunications services, air traffic and civil aviation control services, meteorological services, air transport services, waste management services, media, public and private commercial transport services, the Police Service, Armed Forces, Prisons Service, Immigration Service, National Fire Service, CEPS Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, and other members of the Executive, Judiciary, and Legislature.
Group 3 consists of the rest of the general public, that is all persons over eighteen (18) years, except for pregnant women. The final group, that is Group 4, will include pregnant mothers and persons under the age of eighteen (18), and they will be vaccinated when an appropriate vaccine, hopefully, is found, or when enough safety data on the present vaccines is available. Special arrangements will be made for persons with disabilities who fall within these groups.
So, from Tuesday, 2nd March, to Monday, 15th March 2021, the Ghana Health Service will begin deployment of the six hundred thousand (600,000) AstraZeneca vaccines, with persons in Groups 1 and 2 being the target of this first vaccination campaign. It will be conducted in forty-three (43) districts, which are the epi-centres of the pandemic in the country. They are twenty-five (25) in Greater Accra, sixteen (16) in Ashanti, and two (2) in the Central Region. The Ghana Health Service, as from tomorrow, will give precise details.
Whilst we are, initially, concentrating on the forty-three (43) epicentre-districts, preparations are being made for the vaccination of twenty million Ghanaians through the deployment of some twelve thousand and seventy-one (12,471) vaccinators, thirty-seven thousand, four hundred and thirteen (37,413) volunteers, and two thousand, and seventy-nine (2,079) supervisors for the entire vaccination campaign.
Fellow Ghanaians, I know there are still some who continue to express doubts about the vaccine, others have expressed reservations about its efficacy, with some taking sides with conspiracy theorists who believe the vaccine has been created to wipe out the African race. This is far from the truth. Our domestic regulatory agency, FDA, one of the most reputable in Africa and in the world, has certified the safe use of the vaccine. It will not do so if it had any reservations about the safety of the vaccine, and I have gone on record as saying that no vaccine will be deployed in the country for use without the express certification of the FDA.
Taking the vaccine will not alter your DNA, it will not embed a tracking device in your body, neither will it cause infertility in women or in men. As your President, I want to assure you that the vaccine is safe. That is why tomorrow, on Monday, 1st March, ahead of the commencement of the vaccination programme on Tuesday, 2nd March, my wife the First Lady, the Vice President, his wife the Second Lady, and I will take the vaccine publicly at two (2) health facilities in Accra. Key public officials such as the Speaker and Members of Parliament, the Chief Justice and Justices of the Superior Court of Judicature, Chairperson and Members of the Council of State, the Chief of Staff and senior officials at the Office of the President, and prominent personalities like some Eminent Clergy, the National Chief Imam, the Asantehene, the Ga Mantse, and some media practitioners will also, on Tuesday, take the jab publicly. This is being done because the vaccine will help protect us against the impact of COVID-19 on our health. It is also a major catalyst to restoring livelihoods and the national economy to the robust level it belongs.
I encourage faith-based groups, civil society, media and all Ghanaians to support the public education campaign associated with the exercise. We need all hands-on deck to make this a success.
Furthermore, I want to reiterate my determination that we should manufacture vaccines here in Ghana. To this end, a Committee has been established under the Chairmanship of the former Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, the world-renowned scientist, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, which is formulating a concrete plan of action towards vaccine development and manufacturing.
Fellow Ghanaians, the roll out of the vaccination campaign does not mean we should let our guard down, and discard the safety protocols that have served us well thus far. We cannot afford to let our guard down. Let us continue to wash our hands under running water, maintain social distancing, refrain from shaking hands and hugging, and, most importantly, wear our masks.
We must remember that the virus continues to jeopardise our lives and livelihoods. As at Friday, 26th February 2021, the total number of active cases stood at five thousand, four hundred and forty-four (5,444); our daily infection rate is four hundred (400); and seventy-seven thousand, nine hundred and seventy-two (77,972) recoveries have been recorded. Since I last spoke, one hundred and ninety-one (191) more people have sadly passed away, bringing the number of cumulative deaths to six hundred and seven (607), and twenty-four (24) persons are critically ill.
Out of sixty-nine thousand, three hundred and fifty (69,350) schools in the country, two hundred and seven (207) have reported cases of infections. The number of active cases is now two hundred and eighty-two (282).
So, until further notice, all the restrictions as announced in my last address remain in force, and the Police will continue to ensure compliance by all and sundry.
If all of us stay the course, and adhere strictly to the protocols, we will emerge out of this pandemic even stronger than before. This is my charge to you this evening, my fellow Ghanaians. There is light at the end of the tunnel, we dare not give up all the hard work at this point in time. This too shall pass, because the Battle is still the Lord’s!!
May God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
I thank you for your attention, and have a good night.