By Patience Loum
In December 2021, the Ministry of Health (MoH) with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched a COVID-19 awareness campaign in The Gambia which resulted in 1,500 people being vaccinated from 60 border communities in the North Bank (NBR) and Upper River Region (UPR).
According to the IOM, “mobile populations along the historically porous border between The Gambia and Senegal tend to be more vulnerable to the spread of the disease and are also often hardest to reach with health information and services due to their remoteness and distance from regional health facilities”.
Health Minister Hon. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh believes that this initiative complements other ongoing vaccination efforts in a country where only 20% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.
“COVID-19 is still with us,” warned Health Minister Samateh and “we all need to get vaccinated to break the cycle of transmission. The vaccines are safe and effective and are available. I encourage people to get vaccinated so that we can live our lives as we used to”.
With help from the COVAX facility, The Gambia has received hundreds of thousands of doses of different vaccines including AstraZeneca, Janssen and Janssen (J&J) and Sinopharm.
The Government of the United States of America on 3rd March 2022 donated 100,620 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the government of the Gambia. World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in The Gambia, Dr. Desta Tiruneh is urging The Gambia to do more to achieve WHO’s target of 70% coverage before the end of 2022. To achieve this a lot of work is needed from the MoH and partners to increase the current vaccination coverage of 20% would need to be increased by 50%.
According to reports from the MoH, the spread of the Omicron variant has seen a surge in the number of COVID-19 positive cases in The Gambia at the beginning of 2022. Over 1,500 cases were registered in January this year, an almost 400% increase from December 2021.
The Gambia received 36,000 COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccines on 3rd March 2021 by the COVAX Facility bringing it to a total of over 800,000 doses of vaccines that have been administered with a record of over 300,000 fully vaccinated thereby highlighting that 14.7% of the Gambian population have been vaccinated.
On 17th June 2022, the MoH received 151,200 doses of Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines from the Government of France through the COVAX facility. This is the second such donation which brings the total of COVID-19 vaccines donated by France to The Gambia via the COVAX facility in less than a year to 189,600 doses.