By Binta S Jawo
The Gambia’s Ministry of Health (MoH) held a press briefing on Friday 24th February 2023 informing the media of a 10-day nationwide Covid-19 vaccination campaign set to start on the 1st of March 2023. MoH officials say this will be the 9th national Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
According to the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) and Health Promotional Directorate, officials are targeting 70% coverage after their latest campaign with the highest Covid-19 vaccination coverage being 18% since the outbreak took hold in The Gambia on 18th March 2020.
Senior Communications Officer under the Directorate of Health Promotion and Education, Gibril Gando Baldeh explained that the vaccination campaign is meant to boost the coverage of the Covid-19 vaccines rollout in the country.
Sinopham, Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer are the vaccines available for this campaign and children at the age of 12yrs can take the vaccine. He was quick to clarify that there has not been any declaration that Covid-19 is over so that’s why people should try to take the vaccines for their own good.
Delivering his welcoming statement, Deputy Director of Health Promotion and Education, Mr Sanjally Trawally urged Journalists to disseminate the message to their wider audience on their respective platforms. He noted that taking the vaccines can help reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19 therefore, it is safe.
According to Deputy Director Trawally, since the campaign started the number of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 has reduced drastically proving the effectiveness of the vaccines. He appealed to Journalists to help in convincing others to take the vaccines for their well-being and to be able to travel outside the country because it’s still a requirement in order to travel to some countries.
A presentation delivered by an MoH Official shows that there are 12,593 confirmed Covid-19 cases in The Gambia, cumulative deaths stand at 372 people and the fatality rate is 3.0%. So far 627,500 people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 which represents only 18% of the population.
EPI Director, Mr Sidat Fofana informed the audience that the vaccination isn’t new in The Gambia but rumours about the Covid-19 vaccines have made their work more challenging. He urged journalists to counter those rumours with clear facts. This he believes will reduce hospitalization and deaths due to Covid-19.
“Relaxation of Covid-19 rules doesn’t mean Covid is gone” he reiterated. He encouraged those with underlining health conditions to take the vaccines so as to minimize other risks such as diabetes and other illnesses which may be aggravated.
A directive from the State House on 13th December 2022 lifted the Covid-19 Pandemic Emergency Restrictions in The Gambia. A letter addressed to the various government Ministries noted that “President Adama Barrow has decided to lift all the Covid-19 Public Health Emergency Restrictions” after consultation with the Special Cabinet Sub-Committee on Covid.
The letter noted that “all arrivals in land borders, airports, and seaports will no longer be required to present a negative PCR test or Vaccination Certificates for entry”. However, many other countries still require a negative PCR test or Vaccination Certificates to be granted entry.
Officials will be available in all health centres, and public places, as well as going from house to house to administer the vaccines.
One of the main challenges hampering the vaccination campaign is the spread of false information which increases vaccine hesitancy. This increases the number of people unwilling to take the vaccine making it more difficult to reach the 70% target.