Training Ghana’s health workers to fight COVID-19

Woman carrying cooler on beach (USAID/Emmanuel Gyimah Attramah)
Regina Gakpo is one of numerous health care workers in Africa who received U.S. Agency for International Development training on combating COVID-19. Gakpo carries a vaccine cooler during a field visit in Ghana. (USAID/Emmanuel Gyimah Attramah)

Each day, Regina Gakpo arrives at the Ayamam Health Center in the Ada West district near Accra, Ghana, and picks up COVID-19 vaccine doses, cotton swabs and syringes, all prepared the night before.

The health care worker has already read her Bible, said a prayer and asked “God to give me a good day.”

Gakpo is one of hundreds of health workers in Ghana that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) trained to fight COVID-19. Often traveling by motorbike to hard-to-reach areas, Gakpo and her team set up mobile vaccination clinics, hold information sessions and go door to door to administer vaccine doses and educate people.

The United States has shared more than 11.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with Ghana, free of cost, as part of an effort with international partners to vaccinate the world. USAID also supports vaccine deliveries and trains regional teams to transport and administer vaccines, including in rural, hard-to-reach communities.

As of April, about 5.6 million people in Ghana had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 9.3 million had received at least one dose. USAID’s support of health care workers is helping Ghana reach its goal of fully vaccinating 22.9 million people — everyone over age 15 and eligible to take the vaccination — by the end of 2023.

Three photos of health care worker talking to people, preparing supplies and riding motorbike (USAID/Emmanuel Gyimah Attramah)
Gakpo often travels by motorbike to remote locations to deliver vaccine doses and information to fight COVID-19 in Ghana. (USAID/Emmanuel Gyimah Attramah)

Gakpo says her team faces challenges. Some people don’t understand that COVID-19 vaccines, while proven safe and effective, may have side effects. Others back out of vaccination appointments. Gakpo and other health care workers carry their own vaccination cards to show that they have been vaccinated and that doses are safe.

USAID worked with Ghana to develop and disseminate accurate information on COVID-19 vaccines and help battle the misconceptions that health care workers face. The partnership included messaging from trusted religious, traditional and community leaders on COVID-19 prevention and the importance of getting vaccinated, as well as a COVID-19 vaccine anthem by Ghanaian gospel singer Celestine Donkor.

USAID also has helped install more than 24,300 hand-washing stations to stop the spread of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. It has helped distribute more than 1.7 million face masks, gloves and aprons to protect health workers. USAID also provided four oxygen plants, as well as concentrators and cylinders to produce life-saving oxygen for patients during the height of the pandemic in Ghana.

Gakpo and other workers in communities like the Ada West district remain committed and passionate about helping get shots into arms. Despite the challenges, Gakpo says she wakes up every day motivated to help others.

“Our job is to prevent the disease from occurring so that we save lives,” she says.

A version of this article was published by USAID. Read the full USAID version here.