The arrival of 96,000 doses of the Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine in country has been hailed by health authorities and touted as a panacea to the global pandemic.
Already, the Ministry of Health has announced an elaborate Roll-Out plan for the vaccine. The Ministry of Health appears to be proceeding at pace with its Roll-Out plans despite warnings about its dangerous side effects whose causes are yet to be accurately determined.
As if to encourage nation-wide cooperation and compliance, government officials, traditional leaders, religious leaders, journalists are expected to be amongst those who will first receive the jab.
But there are troubling and rising concerns about the introduction of the vaccine into a population whose COVID-19 prevalence is at best negligible.
And this is despite the fact that Liberians in general have not been adhering to social distancing measures and neither are they generally wearing face masks.
Strangely and for unexplained reasons, little or no attempts are being made by health authorities to probe reasons why there has not been a massive COVID-19 outbreak in Liberia in view of general non-adherence to anti-COVID-19 mitigation measures prescribed by the WHO and national health authorities.
Although there have been some reported infections, yet there has been no widespread outbreak as anticipated by health authorities. Moreover, treatment facilities for COVID-19 patients are virtually non-existent.
The sole national referral center, the 14 Military Hospital is hardly equipped in terms of adequate and qualified manpower, adequate Personal Protective Equipment as well as the ready availability of drugs and medicines.
To date, several European nations have put a halt to the further use of the vaccine in their respective countries, owing to concerns about blood clotting in the brain (thrombosis).
Already a few individuals are reported to hae suffered fatal consequences after they were administered with the drug.
In response, France, Germany and other European nations have responded by placing a halt to further vaccinations until further tests are carried out before vaccination can resume.
But despite this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that countries should go ahead with vaccinations because the vaccine is safe.
But critics have been quick to point out that WHO executives are pandering to big business whose sole objective, they say, is to make profit over the suffering of millions of people around the world.
And already, reports of hoarding have surfaced, revealing a latent attempt to drive up vaccine prices by creating an artificial shortage.
Moreover, the price of a single dose of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine is US$3.00, which means that already it is beyond the reach of the poorest of the country’s poor.
But it can be recalled that the Daily Observer in its March 9, 2021 editorial headlined, “Beware of Hypocrites, Liberians”, cautioned health authorities against promoting the use of the vaccine in Liberia.
The Daily Observer made this point well before news broke of its use being halted by scientifically and industrially advanced countries such as Germany, Norway, France, Spain etc.
And they have done so because of fears that the drug could cause blood clotting in the brain. Already, several individuals have died from side effects related to the virus.
And those countries, advanced as they are, have deemed the risks too high to pass on to their people yet, a little “shithole country” like Liberia with a broken and dysfunctional health system is urging its people to accept to be used as guinea pigs for an experiment that could horribly go wrong.
But the Germans, French, Brits and others are right in their stance. After all, it is their people who are dying in the thousands and they are duty bound to protect their populations from further loss of lives due to COVID-19.
The leaders of those nations are well aware that the vaccine was produced in what was a race against time. Because of heavy toll it was taking, extensive field tests would have been a luxury they could ill afford for all what it appeared then.
That the then leader of the Western world, Donald Trump, would even dare propose the use of chloroquine and disinfectants to treat infected individuals clearly indicated a degree of hysteria that could only be assuaged by a quick-fix, a vaccine to halt the deadly disease in its tracks.
Now here we find ourselves with our health authorities, pretending as though COVID-19 is decimating the Liberian population, are going all out to embrace and promote a vaccine whose further use has been halted in several advanced countries.
Interestingly, questions are being asked that, if the intent of providing this vaccine is completely altruistic, then why not give it for free?
Additionally, China, Russia and Cuba are reported to be providing to requesting poor nations free of charge anti-COVID vaccines they have produced.
Now, if the contention is that those vaccines have not been subjected to extensive field tests, then why is such logic not being applied to in the case of the AstraZeneca drug?
Liberians should not allow themselves to be lulled to sleep by high sounding rhetoric from our health officials on the impending roll-out of this vaccine.
While their counterparts in advanced industrialized countries are urging caution and putting a halt to its further use, our officials at faster than lightning speed have produced a roadmap for the vaccine roll-out.
The poet Alexander Pope in his “Essay on Criticism” published in 1711 wrote, “Nor is Paul’s Church more safe than Paul’s Church-yard:/Nay, fly to Athens; there they’ll talk you dead;/For Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
It is now used as a proverb, meaning, inexperienced people jump into situations that wiser more experienced people avoid. Whether this is the case with our health officials remains unclear, although the signs seem to suggest otherwise.
But do “fools really rush in where angels fear to tread”? QUESTION!