Ghana received the first shipment of some 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines under the COVAX Scheme on 24th February 2021 making it the first nation to receive vaccines. The arrival of the Oxford vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII) in Accra was greeted with a durbar as a sign of hope for the Ghanaian people at the time no African country had taken delivery of any of the vaccines as part of efforts by government to inoculate at least 22 million citizens by the end of 2021.
Misconceptions and conspiracy theorists about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccines had skyrocketed among citizens at the time. The included alleged fertility risk, altering of one’s DNA and sudden growth among users.
Speaking on Sunday 24th February during a COVID-19 update, The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said, “I know there are still some who continue to express doubts about the vaccine, others have expressed reservations about its efficacy, with some taking sides with conspiracy theorists who believe the vaccine has been created to wipe out the African race. This is far from the truth. As your President, I want to assure you that the vaccine is safe”, Akufo-Addo said.
Akufo-Addo and his spouse, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo received the first jabs on live television at the 37 Military Hospital. The President maintained the decision to take the jabs on live television was due to the growing vaccines hesitancy among citizens at the time hence the need to boost confidence among citizens over the safety of citizens.
Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia and his spouse Samira Bawumia followed suit same day at the Accra Police Hospital all in a bid to coerce citizens to get inoculated.
Vaccines in Northern region.
The Northern region was not spared in this vaccine hesitancy. Perhaps, residents in Wurishei, Kpalsi and Sagnarigu-Kukuo communities in the Sagnarigu Municipality of the Northern region were the most adamant. Azaratu Mohammed, a resident of Wurishe and a teacher says she will not receive the vaccine, “I’m told the vaccine destroys some components of our reproductive system, and I just got married so I can’t risk like that”, she told Rainbow Radio’s Prince Kwame Tamakloe.
Similar situations were recorded at Sagnarigu-Kukuo where residents insisted that the vaccines were not safe for breastfeeding mothers, “it can kill the child that was the reason behind the exemption of breastfeeding mothers from taking part in the first phase of the vaccination”, Jamila Mumuni claimed.
Residents in Kpalsi still doubt the existence of Covid-19 in Ghana. They argue it is a strategy by government to syphon state funds. Meanwhile, Ali Fuseina, a mother of four hinted that she would have loved to take the vaccine but her husband had warned her and her children from taking the vaccine.
Ironically, there exist vaccines hesitancy even among the elite as some students of the Tamale Technical University, expressed their unreadiness to receive the vaccine. A level 300 High National Diploma Marketing student, Maridiya Alhassan explained that, if other countries had vaccinated their citizens before Ghana, she would have some grounds to go in for the vaccine.
According to a report by Fact-check Ghana, claims that COVID_19 vaccines could alter the Deoxyribonucleic Acid popularly known as DNA was false. The report which cited the American Centre for Disease Control and Food and Drugs Authority termed as false, conspiracies.
Dr. William Asamoah, a worker at Tamale Covid-19 treatment center, said getting the COVID-19 vaccine may mitigate these risk factors and help prevent severe coronavirus disease.
Dr. Eleeza however encouraged the people of the northern region to avail themselves during the next phase of the inoculation adding the vaccines are safe.
“I will advise that we all come out during the second phase of the vaccination. You know how hard this pandemic has hit everyone so I will implore the people of the northern region in particular to keep observing the Covid-19 protocols but.”
Alleged Expired Vaccines in Tamale.
The Ghana Health Service debunked claims that some “thousands of vaccines” had expired in the Northern region.
“The last 350,000 vaccines were received on 30th March had an expiring date of 13th April. They were distributed on 22nd April to the regions across the country. All regions were able to use except for 480 doses that were not put to use in the Northern region and 100 doses in Oti region consisting of forty-eight bottles from the Northern region and ten from the Oti region”, the Director-General of the GHS Dr. Kuma-Aboagye said on 18th April during the Ministry of Health Press Briefing in Accra.
It said some minority communities have higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma and other conditions. Many of these diseases are risk factors for severe Covid-19 infections because people with chronic conditions have compromised immune systems and are more susceptible to infections.
They explained that the last 315,000 vaccines that were received, the second one, were received on March 30 and it expired on April 13 and vaccination never continued thereafter.
Despite, these unfortunate figures, most residents in the northern region especially its capital, Tamale have thrown the Covid-19 protocols such as regular hand washing with soap and water, wearing of nose mask, social distancing, regular use of alcohol-base hand sanitizers to the gutters.
As at 15th April, the country had conducted over a million Covid-19 test with a total of 91,709 persons testing positive for the virus with seven hundred and seventy-one deaths and 89,604 recoveries. Ghana’s Covid-19 active cases stood at 1,334.
The writer is a mentee under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 project by Journalists for Human Rights.