Government Optimistic of Meeting WHO’s COVID-19 Vaccination Threshold

Liberia’s Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah

Monrovia – The government is doing all in its power to ensure that about 10 percent of the population is fully vaccinated by the end of September, the Minister of Health and head of the Covid-19 Incident Management System (IM), Dr. Wilhemina Jallah has said.”

By Siaway T. Miapue with Journalist for Human Rights

“The ten percent threshold is a target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that ten percent of every country’s population is vaccinated and the government wants to meet that.

Minister Jallah said at a press conference in Monrovia on Thursday that Liberia is making a difference in vaccination.

“The demand, for us, is here. So, we need to supply or visit communities, churches, schools, villages, and towns with the Vaccine in other to meet our quota by September 30, 2021,” she said.

WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on May 24, 2021, called for all countries to vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations by September and at least 30 percent by the end of 2021.

He urged WHO member states should back the “massive push” to reach these COVID-19 vaccination goals.

“This is crucial to stop severe disease and death, keep our health workers safe and reopen our societies and economies,” he said.

“We must be very clear: the pandemic is not over, and it will not be over until and unless the transmission is controlled in every last country,” he added.

Health Minister Jallah noted that the Liberian government has been working assiduously to ensure that it meets the global health body’s target. “We are reaching everywhere to make sure the vaccines get to our people to be vaccinated,” she said.

Though, this reporter tried but could not get statistics of the number of people who have been vaccinated, a New York Times COVID-19 Vaccination tracker indicated that only 113,000 of the population of an estimated five million people have received at least a jab. This indicates that 2.8 percent of the population has been vaccinated while a meager 0.6 percent is fully vaccinated.

In neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, 7.1 percent and 2.0 percent of their population have been vaccinated while 3.2 percent and 0.4 percent are fully vaccinated.

Data released by WHO in August showed Africa would miss the 10 percent target. Forty-two of Africa’s 54 nations—nearly 80%—are set to miss the target if the current pace of vaccine deliveries and vaccinations hold, the data indicated.

However, nine African countries, including South Africa, Morocco, and Tunisia, have already reached the global target.

“With less than a month to go, this looming goal must concentrate minds in Africa and globally. Vaccine hoarding has held Africa back and we urgently need more vaccines, but as more doses arrive, African countries must zero in and drive forward precise plans to rapidly vaccinate the millions of people that still face a grave threat from COVID-19,” WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, noted at an event last month.

He said while many African countries have sped up COVID-19 vaccinations as vaccine shipments ramped up in August, 26 countries have used less than half of their COVID-19 vaccines.

The Liberian government’s goal is to inoculate up to 70% of the people living within the country’s territorial confines in order to achieve population protection, an official told this reporter.

“We still have a long way to go, and we really need to ramp up our vaccination efforts and we will hopefully get more supplies in-country so vaccination can be faster. With that, we will ensure most of our people are fully vaccinated,” he said.

Liberia is currently experiencing the third wave of pandemic. The country has registered 5,761 Covid-19 cases as of September 9, 2021, with 283 deaths; data from the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL) shows.

The height of infection was in June and it saw a staggering 219 of those cases were recorded on July 3 alone; the highest daily surge of the virus since the pandemic started. Recovery has been huge with a total of 5,428 as of September 9, 2021.

“We are making progress when it comes to the numbers of people recovering from the virus,” Minister Jallah said, while urging every Liberian to continue to follow the preventive measures, especially mask-wearing and keeping distance away from people.

However, vaccine hesitancy is also a huge problem affecting the fight against the pandemic. Not even half of a total of 494,400 doses of both the AstraZeneca (192,000) and Johnson and Johnson (302,400) doses imported are yet to be used—a situation that is also happening in other parts of Africa.

Over 143 million doses have been received in Africa in total and 39 million people—around just 3% of Africa’s population—are fully vaccinated, WHO Africa Office said. In comparison, 52% of people are fully vaccinated in the United States of America and 57% in the European Union.

“The inequity is deeply disturbing. Just 2% of the over five billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa. Yet recent rise in vaccine shipments and commitments shows that a fairer, more just global distribution of vaccines looks possible,” said Dr. Moeti.

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