On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 as a pandemic after a thorough assessment. One week later, The Gambia confirmed its first case of the deadly virus which shook the entire country. From there on, it was nothing but restrictions.
At the time of the WHO declaration, there were more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people had already lost their lives. Thousands more were fighting for their lives in hospitals. That’s one year ago but, due to the impact and the devastation Covid-19 caused, it feels like a lifetime ago. The virus went on to kill more than two million people across the world.
As a result of incredible scientific endeavour and human ingenuity, breakthroughs were made for a vaccine and a global fightback against a common enemy began. To be clear, vaccines aren’t cures; they only help us produce antibodies and provide immunity against diseases. In this case, the coronavirus. And the idea was, even though millions would die, those that are still alive can be protected and lives can return to normalcy.
The world anxiously waited for nearly a year since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic to have an effective vaccine. And now we have a bunch. We have Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, etc.
However, for the past week or so, countries around the world are doubting if the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe. Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Austria and Iceland have all suspended the use of the vaccine because there are fears that it causes blood clotting.
It was the noblest of intentions to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. There was nothing normal about the new normal and we all agreed that we couldn’t have continued like that any longer. But assurance is needed to help vaccinate everyone who requires it.
Our minister of health, Dr Samateh insisted that The Gambia will not suspend use of AstraZeneca because of the fears. Well, even though there is no evidence to verify those claims, it is imperative to ask: Are we really safe? People’s religious and traditional beliefs have already become a hindrance to the nationwide vaccination which started. So, any side-effect as scary as blood clotting attached to any vaccine would be challenging for the campaign to protect Gambians and those living in The Gambia.