The first 165 000 of up to 7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that MTN Group is donating to African countries have arrived in Ghana, the South African telecoms company said on Tuesday.

It is donating $25 million to support the African Union’s vaccination programme. The vaccines are intended to be distributed to health workers across the AU’s 55 member states.

The first doses of the AstraZeneca’s vaccine arrived in Ghana on Sunday, MTN said in a statement. The initial contribution offered “some very welcome relief”, it quoted Ghana’s Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu as saying.

African countries have only begun vaccinating their citizens in recent weeks after richer countries secured early supplies.

The continent is relying primarily on free doses from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, which aims to inoculate 20% of the population by the end of the year.

Confidence in AstraZeneca vaccine

No countries in Africa have refused the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine due to any remaining health concerns, a senior official of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday.

Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for drug access, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, told a news conference: “It has all returned to normal, we don’t have any countries refusing the AstraZeneca (vaccine) on the African continent.”

WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward said: “There’s a lot of confidence” in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

AstraZeneca announced that the vaccine was found to have been 79% effective at preventing symptomatic illness in a large United States trial and is 100% effective against severe or critical disease and hospitalisation.

The news came as many countries resumed using the vaccine after its benefits were found to outweigh the risks following investigations into reports of blood clots.