By Nelson Manneh
Following the Launch of COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign by President Adama Barrow, the Ministry of Health has started rolling out vaccination against COVID-19 in all parts of the country since the launching ceremony held on 10th March 2021.
Modou Njai, the Director of Health Promotion and Education at the Ministry of Health, said the vaccination teams have been deployed at public health facilities.
Njai said with effect from 1st April 2021, the priority groups targeted by the Ministry of Health for COVID-19 vaccination will include health workers; people age 65 years and above, people with co-morbidities (Diabetes, Hypertension, Kidney Diseases, etc).
He said the new priority of targeted groups for the COVID-19 vaccination includes security personnel, teachers, people in hospitality industry and commercial public transport drivers.
For ease of identification of these priority groups, the target participants are required to provide proof of their eligibility to the vaccination teams.
“In order not waste vaccine doses at the end of each day when the vaccine vials are already open, people who are interested to take the vaccines and are not in the priority groups mentioned above are encouraged to come to the vaccination sites to see if there are excess doses for them to be vaccinated with,” he said.
The Gambia has received the first consignment of thirty-six (36) thousand doses of AstraZeneca vaccine under the COVAX Facility arrangement. The country also received 15,000 doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine through the MTN/AFRICA CDC donation.
In addition, the World Bank will finance cost of over one million doses of COVID-19 Vaccines. The Gambia has also received a donation of 10,000 doses of SINOPHARM vaccines from the sister Republic of Senegal.
He said all vaccines received were cleared by The Gambia Medicine Agency for use in The Gambia. These vaccines have been proven to have high efficacy and safety against COVID-19 and will therefore have an immediate impact on the pandemic.
Director Njai said the start of the vaccination campaign offers a momentous opportunity to strengthen the prevention measures against COVID-19. He said though safety concerns have been raised in other countries; no serious safety events related to the vaccine have been reported in the country. The participants who underwent vaccination at the initial stages welcomed the program, thus it is recommended that the priority groups participate fully in the vaccination.
“Safe and effective vaccination against COVID-19 is essential to bring this outbreak under control, but alone will not be sufficient. The continuous use of face mask, regular hand washing with soap, continuity of health services and avoiding overcrowding are critical intervention strategies,” he said.
The health ministry with support from partners developed a National COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. The plan outlined strategies for training of vaccinators, storage and management of vaccines supplies and equipment, effective collection and handling of vaccination waste and mobilisation of populations geared towards ensuring quality and access for the targeted population to COVID-19 vaccines.
Over the years, successful large and targeted vaccination campaigns against diseases such as polio, measles, tetanus and meningitis with our routine Immunization Program has led to the eradication of some vaccine-preventable diseases in the country.
“This on-going COVID-19 vaccination programme is expected to cover about 60% of the Gambian population. The vaccine will be administered free of charge. To realize this, effective participation of the public, private and voluntary sectors will be required. As the COVID-19 vaccination program progresses, the public will be informed in advance of eligibility criteria as well as the location of vaccinators across the country. The public is encouraged to call the Ministry of Health Toll-Free Number 1025 regarding the vaccination program and other related information,” he stated.