— As Jeety mobilized 355 people to get vaccinated
The government of Liberia has administered the first dose of the Oxford- AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to 355 people, the highest number of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered in a single day at a given location in Liberia so far.
“The vaccination drive at this GURDWARA SAHIB JI temple on UN Drive temple is a milestone due to the fact that no single large-scale vaccination has taken place at a given location since we started this process. The launch at the Ministerial complex had crowd, but this is remarkable,” explained Adolphus Clarke, Program Manager, Expanded Programme on Immunization, at the Ministry of Health.
The record comes more than two weeks after the government kick-started the country’s COVID-19 vaccination drive at the Ministerial Complex on April 1, 2021 — starting with the Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, followed by the WHO Representative to Liberia, the Ministers of Information, Education and Chairpersons on Health in the Legislature.
Since then, the vaccination drive has struggled to gain momentum in terms of public acceptance, with only 2,735 persons having received their first jab dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to April 14 vaccination data from the Ministry of Health.
The data, according to Clarke, does not take into account vaccination administered after April 14, 2021.
“The pace at which the vaccination drive is going is not what we anticipated. It is slow; however, momentum is going to increase as more people get vaccinated daily,” Clarke said. “We are optimistic that we will have more people to come forward to be vaccinated—if not now, but in the near-distant future.”
The slow pace of the country’s vaccination drive, sources at the Ministry of Health said, has led to worrying signs among the Ministry’s officials that the 98,000 doses of vaccine donated through the COVAX initiative might take longer than expected to be used up. The slow pace of acceptance has much to do with the high level of distrust among the populace about the vaccine.
The sources added that the distrust has increased exponentially due to concerns of rare blood clotting associated with the vaccine in some western countries, “but the health benefits out weight the risks,” Liberian Health officials say.
“The benefits of this vaccine is huge even though there is some side effect. This issue of blood clots is not unique to us, rather to western countries. We may not have been affected as other countries, but are not at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do and in a life-and-death race against this virus… until people come out and get vaccinated, we are not totally safe,” the MOH sources said.
However, Indian business tycoon, Upjit Singh Sachdeva, has come to the aid of the government by mobilizing 355 people to take the vaccine. The vaccine drive on April 18, 2021, is probably going to build public trust. Those vaccinated include a record number of Indians, as well as few Liberians, Pakistanis, Syrians, and Lebanese.
According to Mr. Sachdeva, also known as “Jeety”, his effort is in support of the government’s agenda to have all Liberians vaccinated, if possible, as a means of ensuring that the country becomes safe from COVID-19.
Jeety further indicated that COVID-19 knows no race or class and, as such, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that no one is left behind or missing out in the process of getting vaccinated.
“I hope every one of us living in Liberia musters that courage to get vaccinated and to help encourage others to do so,” Jeety said. “I know there will be doubts, but it is our moral responsibility to work with those who lack trust in the vaccine to gain their trust. The government has put so much into this, so it will not go well if we allow the effort to go to waste.”
At first, many of those vaccinated were afraid, thinking the process was painful; however, they ended up laughing and smiling after being injected with the vaccine as the process happened so quickly, so easily, and with no pain.
As they left the vaccination room, some were seen encouraging other people in and outside the temple, as well as passers-by, to take the vaccine. “Please go and get it, it is the best thing for you, best thing for your family and for everyone else.”
“It did not hurt a bit, but I was afraid at first. Everything happened so fast — I felt no pain — it was just a prick on my flesh,” said Nudrat Hapeez, a professor of English Literature at the University of Liberia.
For Prof. Hapeez, getting vaccinated is a great deal as it put her in a better position to convince her students at the state-run university to take the vaccine.
“Being vaccinated is fairly a straightforward process. And I’d like to invite all Liberian and foreign nationals living in the country to do theirs so that we can all be safe healthy,” she said. Now I ‘am vaccinated, I am in a better position to convince others to do so.”
Meanwhile, Clarke has described Jeety’s efforts as a true sign of statesmanship and one that will have a profound impact on the country’s vaccination drive.
Clarke furthered that Jeety’s availability to help with the vaccination exercise is something that took days to convince influential people in the society, and he hopes that, from his example, others can follow suit.
“These are the kinds of requests we look forward to and hope it starts coming. Diseases have no boundary; therefore, it is the responsibility of all those living in Liberia to get vaccinated,” Clarke noted.