By: Nyima Sillah
The COVID-19 vaccine has immensely contributed to the immunization of boarding school students, most especially during the tense period of the pandemic.
Speaking to this medium recently, Mr. Gibril Gando Baldeh, a senior health communications officer at the Ministry of Health highlighted the importance of the Covid-19 vaccine on children, adding that the COVID-19 vaccine is a preventative medicine that is meant to ensure that the children are protected from the pandemic.
He confirmed that injecting children with the vaccine is not only going to improve their immunity but prevent them from the disease or severe symptoms of COVID-19 which also goes a long way by cutting down the chain of transmission which is very key.
Baldeh noted that “children are very active, they can spread the virus to their parents and grandparents who will be at disadvantage due to their low immunity or because they are having co-mobility diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and others that they are confronted with. So, if the kids are not vaccinated, the chances of transmission of diabetes and others will be high.”
According to him, The Gambia started using the COVID-19 vaccine in March-April 2021 until 2022, they reached all the vaccines that they were using for Covid-19, and they have people who are above the age of 18 and now since the arrival of the new Covid-19 vaccine which is Pfizer, they have been cleared by WHO to be used on children of 12 years and above.
On the significance of vaccination on children, Dr. Musa Marena, the Obstetrician, and Gynecologist at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) said “if children are vaccinated, then the increase in herd immunity among the population will reduce. Also, the spread of the virus, vaccinations help build immunity hence when we are exposed to the virus, our strong immunity will fight it.”
He added that the vaccine is important in preventing severe illness, protects high risk of one dying from COVID-19, and also prevents the rapid spread of the virus.
For his part, Ebrima Njie, a Child Right Activist and a member of Risk Communication and Community Engagement for Covid-19 said that “in boarding schools, most of the time kids are together and they do all their activities together. That it is always important when these children get vaccinated at least it will slow the transfer of the virus.
“If a child is vaccinated even if he/she gets Covid, it won’t be serious compared to someone who doesn’t take the vaccine, so that is why it is always important and we always encourage parents to make sure that their children are vaccinated,” he noted.
Njie called on parents to take responsibility to ensure that their children are protected adding that the reason why some of these problems are focused on children is that children are vulnerable, he noted that it is always important to have them considered and prioritized.
“Sometimes in boarding schools, hygiene is a problem. And that kids should be monitored all the time in boarding schools, it is difficult to monitor all the kids at the same time.
Thus, there are other preventive measures like continuously washing hands, and maintaining social distance which is always difficult for students to do. So the best preventive measure is for children to be vaccinated,” he added.
Sara Dambelly, the Principal of Ibadou Rahman Boarding School revealed that his school has a population of 60 students and that during the tense period of the pandemic some were vaccinated before the school was closed, while others were vaccinated at home
Speaking further, he said the vaccine has a lot of positive impacts on his school, noting that it has improved the health of the boarded children. “After their vaccinations to date, none of the children was put on quarantine, neither diagnosed with COVID-19 nor suffered from a severe cold. They are all safe and healthy,” he noted.
“Despite the vaccination, the school still uses other preventive measures like the use of sanitizers, soaps, and water buckets all over the school and also exercises social distancing during their lessons.
Thus, when the pandemic started and the situation was tense, we closed, so after some time, we opened and started operating again. Since then, we have not had any difficulties. We did not have any students that developed any signs or symptoms of the virus,” he concluded.
A mother of a child who attended Ibadou Rahman Boarding school name withheld also shared the importance of the vaccine on her child and how it protected his interactions with her and his old grandparents because she is the most vulnerable and she interacts with other students from other homes.
“I never hesitated for my child to get vaccinated; because his health is my priority, he also interacts with other students. So I would not have given the perfect instruction to his teachers regarding his vaccines other than him being vaccinated for his safety, and the safety of his family especially his grandparents who are one of the most vulnerable to the virus,” she confirmed.
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 Mai-Media and The Voice Newspaper.