Liberia: Residents Call for More Awareness to Boost COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign
Paynesville – Several residents of Paynesville are hesitant about adhering to calls by health authorities to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, citing lack of sustained awareness about the benefits of being inoculated.
By Siaway T. Miapue, Student of Peter Quaqua School of Journalism
On April 1, the Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah took the first shot of the AstraZeneca jab. She was followed by several other government officials and representatives of international health organizations in the country. That move was intended to tackle vaccine hesitancy amongst Liberian.
But it appears that it would take more than that to boost the public’s confidence in turning out in mass to take the vaccine as some residents still remained skeptical.
What are Residents saying
John B. Zayzay, a pharmacist at a drugstore in the Coca Cola Factory Community said he will wait and see if those who are taking the vaccine do not have serious side effects.
Zazay claims that “lack of proper awareness about the vaccination campaign” is casting doubts in the minds of many Liberians.
“Let the government go and do awareness for the children and others that are in the village so people can be informed about taking this vaccine,” he says. “If possible, let the government include in the message various languages for everyone to understand”.
Despite the awareness about the Covid-19 vaccination on local radio stations, some say they have heard little about the process.
“I am just hearing that there is a vaccine for Covid-19 and if this is really a vaccine, I think the Ministry of Health is not doing justice to this population. There has not been awareness as it relates to the vaccine,” claims Peter Zazay.
Lawrance Dayougar, another resident of Paynesville, added that there is an increasing need for a nationwide awareness campaign to counter misinformation about the vaccine.
And Rachael Saye, a prominent resident of Paynesville, claims that “while it is true that the need for the vaccine cannot be underemphasized, the citizens will not be willing to take what they do not know about”.
“The vaccines will be good but if people are not informed, I do not think they will want to take it,” she added.
When Did the Vaccine Arrive
On March 5, Liberia received 96,000 doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines through the COVAX initiative, a partnership involving the Coalition for Economic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), UNICEF and WHO.
In addition, Liberia also received 97,000 syringes and 600 safety boxes for the administration and disposal of immunization waste, according to a statement released by the WHO office in Monrovia.
Officials said the arrival of the 96,000 doses of vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, are the first of the 384,000 doses expected to be delivered to the country.
In late March, LoneStar Cell MTN also donated 27,000 doses of the vaccines to the government as part of its contribution to the fight against the pandemic in Africa.
Where to Get Vaccinated
The Ministry of Health has selected several private and public medical facilities as locations for getting vaccinated. It had earlier announced that first responders — health workers and law enforcement officers — and the elderly will get first preference during the campaign.
The private health facilities include the SOS Clinic in Congo Town, the St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital, UN Health Center in Sinkor and the ELWA Hospital in Paynesville.
The public health facilities include the James David Memorial Health Center (JDJ), the 14-Military Hospital, Redemption Hospital and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital.
According to the Risk Communication pillar of the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL), 10,480 persons have gotten vaccinated so far with the number expected to hit 12,000 in the coming days.
What Do we Know About the Vaccine
The AstraZeneca vaccine is at wo-dose jab developed by the Oxford Vaccine Group that has a 76% efficacy rate after completing the two doses
Scientists and medical experts have declared the COVID-19 vaccines including the AstraZeneca safe and effective although cautioning that a person who gets vaccinated may have some side effects — which is normal. The WHO has clarified that a person who takes the vaccine “may experience some mild side effects, which are signs that your body is building protection” against the virus.
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it takes two weeks for the body to build protection against the virus that causes Covid-19 after taking the vaccine.
And the WHO added that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, and “getting vaccinated will help protect you against developing severe COVID-19 disease and dying from COVID-19”.