More J&J jabs arrive in Liberia

The Embassy of the United States in Liberia has announced the arrival of 168,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine that the United States is sharing with Liberia through  COVAX. 

“We are sharing these doses safely, equitably, and with no strings attached. We are doing this with the singular objective of saving lives,” the Embassy said in a press release. 

“This batch brings the number of doses of the J&J vaccine provided to Liberia from the United States to 470,400 (the first arrived on July 25, 2021). Together, this donation, which arrived at Roberts  International Airport, via COVAX on October 23, along with the previous donation, make up the largest by a single country to Liberia to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Deputy Chief of Mission Joel Maybury joined Minister of Health Wilhelmina Jallah and UNICEF  Country Director Laila Gad at Harvest Intercontinental Cathedral in Monrovia on Sunday to welcome the donation and join a vaccine drive.

DCM Maybury expressed full confidence in the vaccines, “These vaccines are safe and effective. We are approaching 7 billion total vaccine shots  given across 184 countries.” 

And he urged Liberians not to wait to get vaccinated. “My last message to you is to don’t wait. Protect yourself now so you are prepared just in case another wave hits  Liberia. These vaccines are safe, effective, available, and free. It just takes a moment, and it offers  a path back to normalcy.” 

Safe and effective vaccines are our best tool to end the pandemic, and the United States has committed to providing 1.1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide.

To date, the United States has delivered more than 205 million doses of vaccine to more than 100 countries. The commitment to provide COVID-19 vaccine doses to 92 Gavi Advance Market Commitment economies and  African Union Member States will continue to fulfill U.S. President Biden’s commitment to strengthen the fight against the global pandemic. 

As President Biden has said: "the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home. We are sharing these vaccines  to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic."

"We look forward to continued coordination with the African Union and Africa’s Centres for Disease  Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to deliver these doses across the continent through the  COVAX initiative via their established logistical channels," he added.

Meanwhile, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) is supporting the  Government of Liberia to improve surveillance and reporting of suspected polio cases in Nimba,  Bong, Margibi, Maryland, River Cess, and River Gee counties. 

According to a release, this collaboration reflects the need for expanded surveillance within Liberia to quickly identify and stop outbreaks of polio and other diseases. 

There are two types of polio vaccines: inactivated poliovirus given by injection and a weakened poliovirus given by the mouth. Both are considered safe and have significantly reduced the number of polio cases reported each year.

The weakened virus vaccine is easier to administer so it is commonly used. On occasion, however, the weakened virus can regain the ability to infect and then be passed on within an under-vaccinated population. IThisrecently occurred in Liberia in  December 2020. 

The U.S. CDC in partnership with the African Field Epidemiology Network is working with the  National Public Health Institute of Liberia to identify, combat, and, most importantly, prevent polio outbreaks of this kind.

In the first phase of U.S. CDC´s support, which began March 2021, clinical health workers deployed to nine districts in Nimba, Bong, and Margibi counties to engage community health providers and community influencers to reach underserved populations.

 These community health workers also collaborated with district surveillance officers to support vaccination campaigns and improve awareness and reporting of polio as well as other diseases that can be avoided when community members are vaccinated.

Based on the success of this approach, the second phase, which began in September 2021, expanded into six additional districts in Maryland,  River Cess, and River Gee counties. 

Africa was declared free of the wild poliovirus in August 2020, but it must detect and quickly respond to any new cases that stem from weakened viruses to prevent outbreaks. We know how to do this: The same strategies that helped eliminate wild poliovirus can also stop this threat. 

It remains critical that all countries maintain strong disease surveillance and ensure all children are vaccinated. The U.S. CDC is committed to supporting these counties to improve surveillance for polio and other diseases that can be avoided when community members are vaccinated, as well as to continue close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and non-governmental partners in Liberia to stop outbreaks.