By Tabora Bojang
President Adama Barrow and Vice President Dr Isatou Touray have become the first in The Gambia to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, as the country begins its vaccination campaign against the deadly virus.
President Barrow, 56, and VP Touray, 66, received the AstraZeneca vaccine injection marking the launch of a national vaccination campaign at State House Wednesday.
Over 30,000 doses of the Oxford vaccine arrived in the country last week under the Covax scheme following its approval for use by the Medicine Control Agency.
“This is a positive step towards realising my government’s urgent and passionate desire to full protection of every citizen against Covid-19,” President Adama Barrow said at the launch.
He said since the declaration of the disease as a global pandemic last year, it has taken “toll on virtually everyone, emotionally, socially, economically.”
“It is a relief therefore that suitable vaccines have been discovered, tested and approved by reliable experts,” Barrow added.
He further stated his government’s commitment with partners to ensure additional doses of the vaccine are provided to meet the national requirement.
Among the first recipients of the jab are cabinet ministers, leaders of the Gambia Supreme Islamic and Gambia Christian Council Essa Darboe and Bishop James Odico, respectively, chief medical director of the EFSTH, Unicef country rep and several other members of the diplomatic corps.
Health Minister Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh said the government expects an unprecedented reception from Gambians to accept being vaccinated, saying “Gambians are known to be highly receptive to vaccination dating back to 1979 leading to the eradication of several diseases.”
He said The Gambia’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign will target over 480,000 people with the first consignment to prioritise most vulnerable groups including elderly, health care workers, security forces, teachers and people with underlying health conditions.
“This will mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic globally by God’s will. It is therefore highly significant that all Gambians classified as high-risk groups get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and the entire population from this dangerous disease,” Samateh urged.
“We must close our ears to those few elements amongst us who are spreading false information about Covid-19 and dissuading people from being vaccinated,” he added.
The vice president, Dr. Isatou Touray who contracted the last July, said Gambians should embrace the campaign saying the vaccine has been tested to be safe and effective.
“Covid is a reality I already suffered from and I know what the symptoms are. Not everybody can stand it. I survived thanks to the efforts of good medical practitioners around me. I would have been among the deaths,” VP Touray said.