Monrovia – The government of the United States of America is helping to capacitate Liberia to battle the coronavirus pandemic as that government announces the donation of 168,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
The US Embassy announced the arrival of the additional jabs recently. The donation was brought in-country through the COVAX Facility, which works in collaboration with African Union and Africa CDC and other immunization partners including UNICEF.
Upon arrival, the new batch was received by Minister of Health Wilhelmina Jallah, US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Joel Maybury, and UNICEF Country Director Laila Gad at Harvest Intercontinental Cathedral in Monrovia early this week.
“The US is doing a lot for us and we are grateful for their assistance,” Minister Jallah said. We want to tell our people that more doses of the vaccines are now in the country. We just need to get to the centers and get vaccinated. This is the only way we can have this virus defeated.”
Deputy Chief of Mission Maybury Said in a statement released by the Embassy that the donations are meant to save lives. “We are sharing these doses safely, equitably, and with no strings attached. We are doing this with the singular objective of saving lives,” he noted.
He expressed full confidence in the vaccines, “These vaccines are safe and effective. We are approaching Seven billion total vaccine shots given across 184 countries.”
The DCM urged Liberians not to wait to get vaccinated. “My last message to you is to don’t wait. Protect yourself now so you are prepared just in case another wave hits Liberia. These vaccines are safe, effective, available, and free. It just takes a moment, and it offers a path back to normalcy.”
The statement noted also that safe and effective vaccines are “our best tool to end the pandemic and the United States has committed to providing 1.1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide.”
The latest batch brings the number of doses of the J&J vaccine provided to Liberia from the United States to 470,400. Together, this donation, which arrived at Roberts International Airport, via COVAX on October 23, along with the previous donation, makes up the largest by a single country to Liberia to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is in addition to a total of 192,000 doses of AstraZeneca virus brought in the country.
The new batch of J&J vaccines comes at a time when Liberians in the leeward counties continue to complain of a lack of adequate COVID-19 vaccines in their area.
Stakeholders in Lofa County, with the fifth-highest COVID-19 infection rate and the second-highest fatality rate, have complained that the county is yet to receive more doses of the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines that would meet the needs of the population.
“More is yet to be done to ensure that more people benefit from the vaccines that are rolled out,” a local official told newsmen recently.
Lofa’s case mirrors that of all the other leeward counties.
It is one of five counties hit the hardest by the pandemic behind Maryland (164), Nimba (183), Margibi (201), and Montserrado (4,553) Counties. Lofa has also recorded 35 deaths, the National Public Health Institute’s records show, but only a few people have gotten immunized against the virus in the area.
NPHIL data indicated early September that a little over 3,850 persons took the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the county—accounting for fewer than five percent of the total number of people who have taken their first dose of AstraZeneca in the country.
An additional 1,000 of the second dose was later taken to the area.
The county received an initial 24,805 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 from the Ministry of Health in September.
“This will ensure that those who took their first dose take their second,” William Sherman, the county’s health promotion focal person, stated then. But that left a gap of more than 1,850 persons who were waiting to get fully vaccinated.
But Sherman assured that the health team is working with the ministry of health to make sure additional vaccines are delivered to the County.
There have been 5,812 infections and 287 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.
Liberia has administered at least 358, 079 doses of COVID vaccines so far, according to REUTERS COVID-19 TRACKER. It says, assuming every person needs two doses that are enough to have vaccinated about 3.6 percent of the country’s population.
This vaccine rollout data is reported by the number of doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered, not the people who have been vaccinated, the tracker says.
During last week’s report, Liberia averaged about 16,901 doses administered each day. At that rate, it will take a further 59 days to administer enough doses for ten percent of the population.
This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), through the Mobilizing Media in the Fight Against COVID-19 in partnership with FrontPage Africa.