EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA:-Gambian President Adama Barrow has on Wednesday received the first jab as the the country begins rolling out COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
The move comes barely a week after the West African nation received 36,000 vaccine doses from COVAX, a global alliance that provide vaccine access to low and middle income countries.
The AstraZeneca vaccines were shipped by UNICEF on behalf of COVAX, from the Serum Institute of India (SII).
The event, held at State House, also witnessed the vaccination of cabinet ministers, diplomatic corps, religious leaders and other relevant stakeholders.
Frontline health workers, teachers, security officers, those of 65 years and above, and those with underline health conditions are to be catered for during this face.
Speaking at the launching, President Barrow said its remarkable for Gambia to receive the doses under the COVAX initiative package.
“The pandemic has crossed all borders and boundaries of gender, age, status and other characteristics,” he said.
“The pandemic has taken its tall on virtually everyone, emotionally, socially and economically or otherwise,” the Gambian leader added, saying it’s a relieve that suitable vaccine has been discovered, tested and approved by reliable experts.
“The World Bank has provided resources to procure up to 40% of the country’s vaccine requirement. It will complement the 20% already secured through the COVAX arrangement,” he said, noting that it’s a positive step towards realizing his government’s urgent and personal desire for full protection of every citizen against COVID-19.
Barrow said his government is working with other partners such as MRC Gambia and Africa Center for Disease Control to secure additional doses to meet the estimated national requirement.
Dr. Lamin Samateh, the country’s Health Minister described the vaccine roll out campaign as a “historic and momentous” occasion for Gambians.
He said the received 36,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses will cater for 18,000 individuals, who belongs to the high risk group. These, he continued, include those of 65 years and above, frontline health workers, teachers, security officers and those with underline health conditions.
“The COVAX facility will provide vaccines for 20% of our population. This allocation will be able to vaccinate all persons aged 41 years and above, including the parity groups. This sums up to over 480,000 people,” he added.
UNICEF Country Representative in The Gambia, Gordon Jonathan Lewis said Gambia was one of the first five countries to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The Gambia will receive a total of 156,000 doses before the end of May,” he said, adding that additional consignment will be received before the month of April.
Dr Desta Tiruneh, WHO Country Representative in The Gambia, said it’s a dream come through for The Gambia in the fight against COVID-19.
“COVID-19 is with us and will remain with us for some time to come,” he underlined.
He said one of the objectives of the COVAX facility is to have enough vaccines for 20% of all countries.
The arrival of the vaccine gives a great hope as it will help to vaccinate the most vulnerable to safe lives and reduce the number of cases, he added.
COVAX is a global initiative co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key implementing partner UNICEF, working to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries.