Sierra Leone Sets New Covid-19 Vaccine Coverage Target For 2022
Sierra Leone Authorities have set up an ambitious plan to reach at least 70 percent of the population with Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the year.
The new target was announced at the end of a five-day planning with partners in the health sector.
The planning exercise which was organized by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) at the Golden Tulip in Freetown brought together various partner organizations, including FOCUS 1000, which is currently running an Africa CDC funded Covid-19 vaccination campaign designed to boost the country’s uptake.
Data from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) show that only 16% of the target population of Sierra Leone have received at least a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. This, according health officials, represents 11% of the general population.
Sierra Leone started its vaccination drive in March 2021, one year after the country recorded its first case of the viral pandemic.
A news release from the MoHS cites Dr. Mohamed Vandi, Director of Health Security and Emergencies, saying that the biggest challenge facing the country right now is convincing people who look well and active to take the vaccine amid widespread skepticism over the existence of the virus.
Dr. Vandi is however optimistic, according to the release, that Sierra Leone could meet the new target, stressed that this would only be possible with the collaborative approach between the Government and its partners.
“COVID-19 vaccination is a great feat and ideal way to prevent the disease as it has proven to be effective in limiting the spread and death of corona virus disease,” Dr. Vandi was quoted.
Details of how this new target will be met are yet to be shared with the media, but indications are that it will include campaigns targeting specific groups of people, with emphasis on reaching out to those who need the vaccines.
Sierra Leone has recently reduced the age limit for those eligible to take the vaccine to below 18 years.
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Besides the Africa CDC, the country has also received support in the form of vaccines from several countries, including China and United States, as well as through the UN-led COVAX initiative.
Persistent apathy towards the vaccine, which is partly fueled by misinformation, has kept many people away from the vaccination centers.
But the adoption of special campaigns like the Surge by the MoHS and the campaign by FOCUS 1000 have boosted the coverage.
According to Dr. Tom Sesay, who until recently headed the country’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign, the process to further accelerate the vaccination coverage commenced with the development of an Emergency Operation Plan (EOP) which eventually attracted the Africa CDC.
“I am happy that this plan has come to fruition and we are now targeting 70% vaccination of the general population, which I believe the country will achieve with the support of the partners and other players” says Dr. Sesay, who is now the Director of Reproductive Health.
Dr. Desmond M. Kangbai, who replaced Dr Sesay as Manager of Child Health and Expanded Programme on Immunization, says while the current coverage might seem little to some, it represented a “laudable” achievement, according to the MoHS release.
Dr. Kangbai assured that with the commitment of the Health Ministry and political will, as well as the support of partners, the country will be able to reach the 70% coverage.
The Africa CDC is the African Union’s specialized agency responsible for health. It is currently leading the continent’s response to the pandemic, by providing support through collaboration, with member states.
Mohamed Abubakarr, who represented the Africa CDC at the planning process, says there is so much more to come from the agency as part of the plan to attain the target coverage.
The US CDC also participated and it was represented by its Country Director, who stressed that partnership is possible and key in achieving the target.