Ghana - vaccines

Ghana's President gets Covid-19 jab to encourage vaccination drive

File photo of Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, who was the first Ghanaian to receive the Covid-19 vaccine on 1 March 2021.
File photo of Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, who was the first Ghanaian to receive the Covid-19 vaccine on 1 March 2021. AFP - CRISTINA ALDEHUELA

In an effort to allay Ghanaians’ vaccine fears, President Nana Akufo-Addo has taken the Covid-19 jab on live television, hoping to kick start the vaccine campaign.

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Monday's spectacle comes a day after a speech calling for those who are eligible for to be vaccinated to step up and get the AstraZeneca shot, while telling people to ignore conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccines.

“I know there are still some who continue to express doubts about the vaccine, others have expressed reservations about its efficacy, with some taking sides with conspiracy theorists who believe the vaccine has been created to 'wipe out' the African race. This is far from the truth,” he said on Sunday.

“Taking the vaccine will not alter your DNA, it will not embed a tracking device in your body, and neither will it cause infertility in women or in men."

Akufo-Addo’s wife Rebecca also received the vaccine, while Vice President Mahamadou Bawumia and his wife had theirs at the police hospital in the Accra region.

First in Africa

The West African country was the first on the continent to receive vaccines under the Covax facility, set up by the World Health Organization to ensure equitable access Covid-19 vaccines across the world.

After this first shipment of around 600,000 doses, Ghana is scheduled to receive a total of 2.4 million. And the timing is crucial, with 200 deaths recorded over the past month alone, bringing the total to 607 deaths from 84,023 coronavirus infections since the epidemic began.

Some 43 districts in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Central regions have been at the country’s epicenter since the country recorded its first case in March 2020. 

Eligible recipients of the vaccines are categorised into four groups under a national vaccination plan. The first to be served include frontline state officials including healthcare workers and security personnel, civil servants in the executive, legislature, and judiciary branches of government.

Those with underlying medical conditions as well as people aged 60 and above are also included in the first group.

The second group is made up of other essential service providers and the rest of the security agencies, including police and civil servants such as teachers and farmers key to the food supply chain.

Anyone over 18 will follow, while pregnant mothers bring up the end of the vaccinations – if and when an appropriate vaccine is found for them, according to Akufo-Addo.

“Special arrangements will be made for persons with disabilities who fall within these groups,” he added.

Accra residents sound off on vaccines

Although the president has made his vaccination public, some in Accra are still sceptical, even those who would be in the first group.

“I have heard about people taking vaccines and reacting to it. I cannot take the vaccine now because I am not convinced,” Helena Akwettey, a resident of Krowor district.

She said she might wait a month or two before taking the vaccination.

“I have allergies and I don’t know if I take the vaccines I will react to it, I will talk to my doctor first,” she added.

The fact that Ghana received the vaccine first in Africa is a source of pride for some, but brings out worry in others, like Alimah Bawah.

“I do not want to be used as a lab rat because Ghana is the first country to have received this vaccine in the world,” she told RFI.

“I’m not sure if the same fears would be expressed about the Pfizer vaccine which has already been used in other countries,” she added.

Others choose to get their information on the virus through social media.

“I heard and watched videos of the virus on Facebook that coronavirus has been brought to kill us but it couldn’t kill us as expected so they have brought the vaccines to finish us. I will not take the vaccines,” said Kofi, who works in Accra.

His work colleague Solomon thinks Africa needs to wait a year before getting vaccinated – just to make sure it’s ok. “We’re the youth and if something happens to all of us, we will be letting the country down,” he says

Health professionals on board

A number of clinics will be administering the vaccines, including Danpong clinic, a private health facility in the Greater Accra region.

Healthcare worker Augustine Anor is one of the staff members at the Danpong clinic. He says that he will definitely line up to take it because people are not following the basic coronavirus prevention measures in Accra.

“People are refusing to wear face masks, refusing to observe social distancing to protect their family and others,” he said, which results in more cases that they have to treat. “We need to go closer to them to give them care, so a vaccination will help me."

In an effort to combat misinformation on social media, the government is encouraging people to tweet with the hashtag #Iwilltakethevaccine.

Ghana hopes to receive additional vaccines in order to inoculate at least 20 million people by the end of the year.

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