Ministry of Health begins rolling out nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign

EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA:- The Ministry of Health has started rolling out nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign as teams have been already deployed at public health facilities, the ministry said on Thursday.

Below is the statement from the Ministry of Health:

Following the National Launch of COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign by His Excellency the President of The Republic of The Gambia Mr Adama Barrow, the Ministry of Health hereby informs the public that it has started rolling out vaccination against COVID-19 in all parts of the country since the launching on the 10th March 2021.

Vaccination teams have been deployed at public health facilities. With effect from 1st April 2021, the priority groups targeted by the Ministry of Health for COVID-19 vaccination will include: health workers, people age 65 years and above, people with co-morbidities (Diabetes, Hypertension, Kidney Diseases, etc). The new priority groups of targeted for the COVID-19 vaccination include: security personnel, teachers, people in hospitality industry and commercial public transport drivers.

For ease of identification of these priority groups, the target participants are required to provide proof for their eligibility to the vaccination teams.

In order not waste vaccine doses at the end of each day when the vaccine vials are already open, people who are interested to take the vaccines and are not in the priority groups mentioned above are encouraged to come to the vaccination sites to see if there are excess doses for them to be vaccinated with.

The Gambia has received the first consignment of thirty six (36) thousand doses of AstraZeneca vaccine under the COVAX Facility arrangement. The country also received 15,000 doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine through the MTN/AFRICA CDC donation. In addition, the World Bank will finance cost of over one million doses of COVID-19 Vaccines. The Gambia has also received a donation of 10,000 doses of SINOPHARM vaccines from the sister Republic of Senegal.

All vaccines received were cleared by The Gambia Medicine Agency for use in The Gambia. These vaccines have been proven to have high efficacy and safety against COVID-19 and will therefore have immediate impact on the pandemic. 

The start of the vaccination campaign offers a momentous opportunity to strengthen our prevention measures against COVID-19. Though safety concerns have been raised in other countries, no serious safety events related to the vaccine have been reported in the country. The participants who underwent vaccination at the initial stages welcome the program, thus it is recommended that the priority groups participate fully in the vaccination.

Safe and effective vaccination against COVID-19 is essential to bring this outbreak under control but alone will not be sufficient. The continuous use of face mask, regular hand washing with soap, continuity of health services and avoiding overcrowd are critical intervention strategies.    

The Ministry of Health with the support from partners developed a National COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. The plan outlined strategies for training of vaccinators, storage and management of vaccines supplies and equipment, effective collection and handling of vaccination waste and mobilisation of populations geared towards ensuring quality and access for the targeted population to COVID-19 vaccines. Over the years, successful large and targeted vaccination campaigns against diseases such as polio, measles, tetanus and meningitis with our routine Immunization Program has led to eradication of some vaccine preventable diseases in the country.

This ongoing COVID-19 vaccination programme is expected to cover about 60% of the Gambian population.  The vaccine will be administered free of charge. To realize this, effective participation of the public, private and voluntary sectors will be required. As the COVID-19 vaccination program progresses, the public will be informed in advance of eligibility criteria as well as location of vaccinators across the country. The public is encouraged to call the Ministry of Health Toll-Free Number 1025 regarding the vaccination program and other related information.

In conclusion, the Ministry of Health is soliciting the continuous support and cooperation of the public in its efforts to contain COVID-19 and also in addressing the health care needs of the population.

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