By: Mariama Njie
As part of efforts made by the ministry of health in The Gambia to have mentally unstable persons vaccinated, a health official has urged family members in The Gambia to help vaccinate mentally unstable persons.
Amid the outbreak of the Novel coronavirus in the country, many people are compelled to stay at home for their safety, but the mentally imbalanced persons are left in marginalized situations on the street corners and are at higher risk of contracting the virus.
Only a few of them have been admitted to the government’s mental health facility known as Tanka Tanka Psychiatric Hospital.
The only mental health facility in the country was opened around the 1960s in Banjul. In 2009 the psychiatry hospital was moved to a new building where thousands of mentally challenged people are kept.
According to the 445th national situational health report. The Gambia confirmed 12,197 cases; 96 active cases; 11,733 people recovered and 368 patients died since the disease entered the country in 2020.
Speaking to Gibril Gando Baldeh, Senior health communication officer in an exclusive interview said the ministry of health is soliciting support from family members, friends, and loved ones to help vaccination of mentally disabled by taking them to the nearest health centers.
He pointed out that mentally challenged persons were targeted under the priority group and Sequencing of COVID-19 Vaccination.
“But only those at the government facility treatment center called Tanka Tanka Psychiatric Hospital have been vaccinated,” he stressed.
As far as mental health is concerned, we have a small percent of these people who are at the mental health campus and the rest are either at homes or street corners, he added.
Gando explained that there are a lot of mentally unstable persons who are yet to be vaccinated because they cannot have access to them and therefore call on their relatives to step in so that they receive the vaccination.
He went further saying that the ministry of health is well aware of the need to ensure that every individual both Gambians and non-Gambians whether mentally or not is vaccinated.
Adding that “we have targeted to vaccinate 70 percent of the population which also includes mentally unstable persons.”
Health Ministry’s effort to have 70% of the Gambian population vaccinated
Modou Njai, director of health promotion and education in a press release disclosed that the ministry of health has embarked on another round of a countrywide COVID-19 vaccination
He said that the campaign is part of the Gambia government’s strategy to scale up COVID-19 vaccination coverage to 70% of the population by end of the year.
“Vaccination teams will be deployed to public places such as community “bantabas’
health facilities, schools, markets, crossing points, and other strategic locations,” he added.
Currently, the country has three types of vaccines; Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Sinopharm all of which are safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death.
The goal of this campaign is to vaccinate all eligible individuals from the age of 12 years and above.
Despite significant gains in the reduction of COVID-19 cases, the pandemic continues
to be one of the biggest challenges in the last two years.
However, Gibriel Gando Baldeh also lamented challenges faced by the health ministry in regard to vaccination saying that majority of the people who have taken the single dose haven’t come for their dose.
He added that more than 400,000 thousand single doses have been given but only 40,000 people received their second dose.
“We are urging everyone who received a single shot of the coronavirus vaccines to report to any nearest health center,” he appealed.
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 Kaba Communication and The Voice Newspaper.