Sidat Fofana, Programme Manager, Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) said only 20% of Gambia’s population received Covid-19 vaccine, compared to the 70% target.
Responding to an inquiry on the current overall percentage of vaccine coverage in The Gambia, he said: “20% attained, while targeting 70% by the end of December 2022.”
Despite the country’s target to vaccinate 70% of its population by 31st December 2022, 50% of its people have yet to receive the vaccines across all the health regions.
Western Health Region 1 (WR1), Western Health Region 2 (WR2), Lower River Region (LRR), Central River Region (CRR), Upper River Region (URR), North Bank East Region (NBER), and North Bank West Region (NBWR) are the 7 health regions, the Gambia is demarcated into.
A breakdown of the vaccine coverage by the Ministry of Health showed that 568, 030 doses have been administered nationwide, 183, 494 were administered during fixed sessions, while 384, 536 were shot during outreach sessions.
The statistics further showed that in each of the 7 regions, more females than men, have received the vaccines.
Western Health Region 1 registered the highest coverage with 200, 642 doses, followed by Western Health Region 2 with 85, 774, and the least coverage is recorded in the North Bank East Region with 35, 066 doses, as of 19th September 2022.
A breakdown of The Gambia’s vaccine coverage per region courtesy of the Ministry of Health
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But what might be responsible for the low coverage with 3 months to the deadline of vaccinating 70% of the population target, the EPI Programme Manager blamed the rumours and misinformation surrounding the vaccines, refusal of people taking the vaccines, and vaccine hesitancy among the masses.
However, Mr. Fofana said they are using risk communication and community engagement, behavioural change communication, intensified vaccination campaign strategy, and media engagement to address the mentioned challenges posing threat to the realisation of the 70% target.
He acknowledged that the challenges led to low turnout among the masses that resulted in low vaccine coverage, but remains optimistic of reaching the target.
“Low turnout leading to low uptake. There are improvements in the past rounds. It will take time, and (we) will gradually meet our targets with the solutions above,” he assured.
It is the 7th round of COVID-19 vaccination campaign underway by the Gambia, since the pandemic hit the country in March 2020. Some of the rounds lasted for a week, while others went beyond a week.
Number of people vaccinated by age group courtesy of Ministry of Health
The vaccines used in the seven campaigns are AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm, and Pfizer.
The vaccines were provided by COVAX (a facility that comprises the UN system, and Gavi to enable low-income countries to access vaccines), U.S Government, Africa CDC, French Government, Senegalese Government and Government of China, EPI stated.
The Programme Manager for the Expanded Programme on Immunisation of the Ministry of Health made these remarks to this medium in an interview on Monday.