By Ousman A. Marong
The President Adama Barrow on Wednesday took the first shot (injection) of the COVAX vaccine at State House to mark the beginning of the vaccination campaign in the country.
Similarly, the Vice President, Dr. Isatou Touray and the minister of Health Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh were also among several dignitaries that took turns to take the vaccination during the launch of the campaign held at the State House.
After getting his jab, President Barrow described his decision to be the first person to get vaccinated as an important example to make every Gambian see how safe the vaccines are as well as to feel comfortable to take it.
He added that the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the safety of the vaccine, while expressing gratitude to partners who supported The Gambia in the fight against the pandemic.
However, President Barrow went on to caution that until the health officials are satisfied that the virus is defeated, all public health protocols will still be in place even with the availability of the vaccines.
The Gambia received its first shipment of 36,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, less than a week after the Ministry of Health submitted the required documentation for the delivery of the vaccines to the country.
The AstraZeneca vaccines were shipped by UNICEF on behalf of COVAX, from the Serum Institute of India and arrived in the country on Tuesday night.
The first targeted beneficiaries of the vaccination are health care workers, frontline security personnel, those with underlying medical conditions, and elderly people of 65 years and above.
The health authorities have confirmed that more shipments of COVID-19 vaccines and syringes are expected in the coming weeks. With the arrival of this consignment, The Gambia joins other African countries, such as Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Angola, to benefit from the vaccines under the COVAX Facility.
COVAX is a global initiative co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key implementing partner UNICEF, working to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries.
Over the past several weeks, COVAX partners have been supporting the Ministry of Health to prepare for this moment, including the shipment of 37,500 syringes and 375 safety boxes for their disposal, and assisting with the development of the national deployment and vaccination plan that includes other priorities such as training of vaccinators, cold chain assessment and risk communication and community engagement.