By Nelson Manneh
The Ministry of Health in collaboration with partners recently commenced another countrywide COVID-19 vaccination campaign which started from the 11th and will end on the 20th of August 2022. However, turnout continues to decline as many people continue to raise concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, describing it as a monetary treasure for the Government. Health authorities however differed with the position of the general public and said the campaign is part of the Gambia Government’s strategy to scale up COVID-19 vaccination coverage to 70% of the population by the end of the year, and deployed vaccination teams to public places including health facilities, Schools, markets, crossing points and other strategic locations to ease access to the vaccines.
Currently, health authorities say the country has three types of vaccines, namely: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Sinopharm, all of which they say are safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death. They said the goal of the campaign is to vaccinate all eligible individuals from the age of 12 years and above.
During the campaign, the authorities say that vaccination cards will be issued to any person who gets vaccinated, and that the card will serve as a vaccine passport, especially for people traveling to countries requiring proof of valid COVID-19 vaccination; thus they urge everyone to keep their vaccination cards safely.
Despite significant gains in the reduction of COVID-19 cases, the pandemic continues to be one of the biggest challenges in the last two years.
Mustapha Sanneh, a native of Sukuta, said he heard about the COVID-19 vaccination campaign but will not be vaccinated because he still has unanswered questions regarding the whole vaccination process.
“The Government of the Gambia did not want to inform people of the impact after taking the COVID-19 vaccines. We all know that vaccination must have negative impacts and therefore, they should tell us some of the negative impacts of the COVID-19 vaccines,” he said. He argued that the response of the people is bad because many are still reluctant to take the vaccines, saying if the public is not properly informed, the vaccines will expire without being used.
Naffie Camara, a native of Bakoteh met by this reporter at the Bakoteh fish market, said she saw the COVID-19 vaccination team administering the process but she does not understand it.
“The Government should have started by educating the people to know that COVID-19 vaccination is ongoing and all those who are not vaccinated should endeavor to do so. Many of us are not aware of the ongoing vaccination process,” she said. She said Government should first launch a caravan and educate the masses so that people will be well informed and ensure they are vaccinated as soon as possible.
Many people who spoke to this medium said they are not aware of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination campaign. At some vaccination centres visited by this reporter, the turnout was poor compared to previous ones.
“Sometimes our team vaccinates less than fifty people. I do not know what the problem is but the turnout is shocking, and not encouraging at all,” a public health officer who pleaded for anonymity, said.
This reporter contacted the Director of Health Promotion and Education at the Ministry of Health for comment, but he promised to call back to no avail.
Foroyaa will continue to engage the health authorities in order to get their side of the story.