By Kebba Ansu Manneh
Scores of rural women entrepreneurs engaging in cross-border businesses have lamented the impact of Covid-19 vaccines on their trading, noting that the vaccine gave them the confidence to return to business after the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic that forced many rural businesses into closure.
According to them, the Covid-19 vaccine certificate issued by health authorities has also immensely contributed to the easing of their movements across the borders, adducing that the fear of getting contracted and getting delays at the borders is now a thing of the past.
Amie Bittaye, a resident of Farafenni Kerr Ali is among dozens of rural Gambian women who took the Covid-19 vaccine and has since started her business between the borders of Gambia and Senegal.
She disclosed to this medium that she has taken the Johnson and Johnson Jab since last year which has now enabled her to continue trading without fear of contracting the Covid-19 virus, adding misconceptions and disinformation peddled on social media derailed her initial decisions to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
“It was a hard decision for me to get the courage of taking the vaccine because a lot of misinformation is been spread on social media about the Covid-19 vaccine.
However, after listening to health experts on the radios and televisions including the campaign teams on sensitization I made up my mind and finally took the Johnson and Johnson vaccine on 26th, August 2021, at Farafenni, Amie Bittaye, Farafenni Kerr Ali explained.
She added: “Contrary to the misconceptions I didn’t experience any dizziness or body pain and in fact, it didn’t stop me from proceeding with my daily chores. For me, taking the vaccine is the best decision I have made. I no longer fear contracting the virus and I no longer experience delays at the borders because it is very difficult to enter some countries if you don’t take the vaccine and this certificate saves me from all those troubles.”
For her part, Isatou Fofana a young entrepreneur disclosed that restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic have hampered her movement between the Gambia and Senegal, disclosing that this is why she wasted no time to take Covid-19 vaccine that has greatly helped her to continue doing her business across the border.
According to her, more sensitisation is needed in the rural Gambia if the authorities are to convince the rural people to turn up in masse and get vaccinated while appealing to rural women entrepreneurs to take their Covid-19 jabs to be able to continue doing business without undue difficulties encounter at the border.
“I think a lot of sensitisation is needed here in the rural country because still now many people are afraid of taking the vaccine even though health authorities are doing their best to reach out to the community. For me, all that are been peddled on social media about the side effects of the vaccine are all false because I didn’t experience any complications,” Isatou Fofana disclosed.
This reporter also spoke with Isatou Krubally, a resident of Farafenni who has been crossing the border before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, she disclosed she has been detained and quarantined by health officials at Farafenni for sixteen (16) periods during the height of the pandemic.
She disclosed that she is yet to take the Covid-19 vaccine but has plans to take one in the shortest possible time. She disclosed that she has stopped going to business in the neighboring countries because of fear of being reprimanded for not taking the vaccine.
“Since after my quarantine at Farafenni, I have stopped going to Senegal for my business trips due largely to my status of not reaching my vaccination. However, am now ready to go for my vaccination to continue doing the cross-border business that I depend on to take care of my family,” Isatou Krubally disclosed to this medium.
Modou Njie, Director of Health Promotion and Education at the Ministry of Health advised that cross-border businessmen and women should endeavor to get the Covid-19 vaccine, arguing that these groups of people are vulnerable to Coronavirus due to their frequent interactions with the public during their trade.
He disclosed that Covid-19 vaccines are available at the health facilities coupled with the team on the ground rolling out the vaccine to the populace free of charge, advising that it is very important for cross-border businessmen and women to get vaccinated which can go a long way in preventing them from contracting with the Covid-19 virus.
“My advice to cross-border businessmen and women is to get full vaccination that will help them protect them and the people they are dealing with. They are at liberty to go for the Johnson and Johnson jab or even the booster, they can also take Sinopharm or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine which is all available at the health facilities before they embark on their businesses,” Modou Njie, Director of Health Promotion and Education submitted.
This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), through its Mobilizing Media in the Fight Against Covid-19 in partnership with Kebba Communication and The Voice newspaper.