President Adama Barrow has launched the National Covid-9 Vaccination Programme before taking a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at State House in Banjul on Wednesday.
The national launching was graced by cabinet ministers, the UN system institutions including the WHO and UNICEF, and the diplomatic community.
Barrow described the vaccination launching as a relief adding that priority will be given to frontline health workers.
“In launching the COVID-19 vaccination campaign today, priority will be given to those who are highly at risk and the most vulnerable segments of the population,” the president said.
“These are the frontline health workers, those aged sixty-five (65) and above, and people with health conditions. With the arrival of more vaccines, the campaign will be expanded to include other segments of the population.”
With conspiracy theories about the safety of the covid-19 vaccine making rounds around the world, the Gambian leader took his first dose of the vaccine to alleviate any fear while assuring the public that the covid-19 vaccine is safe.
“It is a relief, therefore, that suitable vaccines have been discovered, tested and approved by reliable experts. I am sure all of us wish that the vaccines were discovered earlier to save more lives.”
He added: “Let me reassure you that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for the prevention and control of COVID-19.”
Health Minister Dr. Amadou Lamin Samateh was full of praise for frontline health workers who he said sacrificed their lives when everyone else was scared at the peak of the pandemic.
The Gambia has received 36,000 doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine under the Covax package through a shipment facilitated by UNICEF.
The Unicef Country Director Dr. Jonathan Lewis says the real impact of Covid-19 hugely affects children, adolescent mothers and single mothers.
Mr. Lewis said about 700,000 children last year were impacted by the closure of schools and only few of the children in urban and rural Gambia had access to other learning means.
He called those who met the criteria to take the vaccination and ignore the conspiracy theorists who are trying to dissuade people from taking the vaccines.
The WHO Country Representative Dr. Desta Alamerew Tiruneh, said the Covax vaccine aims to help move from the acute phase of the virus while adding that WHO now focuses on keeping the transmission low, and prevent the re-emergence of the new variant.
Dr. Tiruneh said vaccination is not enough to contain the virus adding that observing public health safety measures remains to be the foundation of containing the virus.
The British High Commissioner in the Gambia David Belgrove who chairs the Development Partners Group in the Gambia, said COVAX is the best way to vaccinate a greater number of people around the world.
He said The Gambia will receive a total of 156,000 doses of vaccines before the end of May.
In addition to the 36,000 vaccine doses donated by the COVAX facility, The Gambia received an additional 10,000 doses of vaccines from President Macky Sall.