Tuesday, 20th July 2021 marks yet another significant milestone in the fight against covid-19 epidemic in the Gambia as we witnessed the arrival of One Hundred and Fifty-One Thousand, Two Hundred (151, 200) doses of the Johnson and Jonson (J&J) Vaccine under the COVAX facility.

These vaccines were mobilized through the initiative of the Government of the United States of America through COVAX partnership spearheaded by the World Health Organization.  The donation is timely as the Gambia continues to witness upsurge in the number of covid-19 cases and deaths. Over a thousand positive cases have been registered between June-July 2021, bringing the total number of cases to over 6900 positive cases recorded since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

In receiving the vaccines, the Hon. Minister of Health Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh thanked the American Government, through its Ambassador to the Gambia, Richard Paschall, for this worthy gesture. He noted that these vaccines will go a long way in boosting the covid-19 vaccination programme inaugurated by the Head of State since year. Dr. Samateh thanked all the partners involved in the COVID-19 response efforts, notably the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the European Union, the World Bank, Peoples Republic of China, and a host of others. He also recognize the health workers and other front-line workers for their humanitarian sacrifice to mankind.

The US Ambassador in a brief speech informed the Hon. Minister that the donation is one of many to come, as promised by the President of the United States of America and support from the G8 members. He noted that about three quarters of a million dozes of vaccines will be made available to the Gambia. 

“Therefore supply of vaccines is not a challenge but how to get the people to use the vaccines is our main concern”, remarked the US Ambassador.  

Dr. Sharmila Lareef-Jah, speaking on behalf of the WHO Country Representative, welcomed and commended the American Government for this excellent initiative, and reminded partners and the general public that  the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, the first to enlisted by the WHO in March 2021)  is safe and effective in people with known medical conditions associated with increased risk of severe disease, such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, significant cardiac disease, obesity, and diabetes. 

She said that 28 days after inoculation Janssen Ad26.CoV2.S was found to have an efficacy of 85.4% against severe disease and 93.1 % against hospitalization.  A single dose of Janssen Ad26.COV2.S was found in clinical trials to have an efficacy of 66.9% against symptomatic, moderate and severe SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Dr. Lareef-Jah however cautioned against complacency and relaxation of the recommended public health measures, emphasizing that “even if vaccinated we can still pass the virus on to others who are not vaccinated”.  She urged the general public to continue taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves, their families and their friends as the pandemic evolves.

The UNICEF Country Representative, Mr. Jonathan Lewis, reiterated that the availability of vaccines alone is not only enough, but rather the use of the vaccines by the public. He noted that, “the challenge is to address vaccine hesitancy in the population and to work hard in convincing the public to get vaccinated as one of the surest and fastest way out of this pandemic”.

For more information visit the WHO website https://www.afro.who.int/