By: R. Joyclyn Wea
MONROVIA-Residents of rural Montserrado County are no longer showing up at designated health centers where the COVID-19 vaccine is to be immunized. The case is worst in Todee, one of the county’s largest rural regions.
Vaccination site at Nyahn Health Center is hardly visited despite the level of awareness that the health team in the area has been carrying out, health authorities in the district have said.
This situation comes at a time when the Incident Management System and the Ministry of Health have devised a robust plan to rollout the Johnson&Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines to help curb the coronavirus menace across Liberia. The country is however experiencing an unprecedented level of vaccine hesitancy
Despite the lack of trust in the health system couple with the high level of misinformation and disinformation associated with COVID-19, the low turnout in rural communities has another dimension: People who took the jabs for the first few days are yet to be certificated.
A team of Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) fellows paid a recent visit to the district to ascertain how the citizens were responding to the COVID-19 vaccination exercise.
Residents expressed frustration over the manner in which the exercise is being done.
They also expressed distrust and lack of interest in taking the vaccine due to the fact that some of their family and relatives who took their vaccines are yet to be given something to prove that they have actually taken the vaccine.
“When the first people that took their vaccine get their card, then we will go for our own, a bike rider in the area said,” Alfred Togbah.
“For me I’m pregnant that’s why I haven’t taken my vaccine, but everybody in my house took the vaccine, but the only bad thing about it is that they were not given cards so how will they show that they have taken the vaccine, the mother of two wondered,” Beatrice Sumo.
Todee District Commissioner, Daniel S.K. Pabie said in an interview that The low turnout is a result of administrative lapse on the part of the vaccine team. “We were told that people were going to receive certificates when they take the vaccine, but this is not happening here,” he said.
The lack of issuance of vaccine cards to those who avail themselves for the exercise has reduced citizens’ interest in getting vaccinated, Mr. Pabie noted.
“Prior to the vaccine being administered we met with our people to encourage them and tell them the importance of being vaccinated and the people really came out in their numbers the first two weeks, but what makes most of them to stop now is because their friends who took their vaccines were not given cards to prove that they have taken their vaccine.”
The commissioner noted that the citizens are willing to participate in the process if vaccinators start to distribute cards or something that they can present anywhere to prove that they have received their vaccine.
“In the absence of the cards, we as officials of the district cannot go about encouraging the people again to take the vaccine. They will not listen to us and they will be right,” he said, “It is very difficult for us to go out there again to begin to convened our people because when they go to do their vaccine they will want to be given something to serve as prove that they too have taken the vaccine.”
The district leadership said it has engaged the head office of the IMS and though they promised to address the situation, it still persists.
“The national response team promised to bring our code that we could use to any place as proof that we have taken the vaccine.”
The District Commissioner doubt if all those who participated in the first ten days vaccination exercise can be trace to get their cards or codes as that many of these people live a distance away from the health facility and have no access to a cellphone.
Todee District Health Officer, Stephen Lamah, confirmed the situation and said it is contributing to low turnout in the area.
He however attributed the delay to poor internet connectivity in an area which is impeding the smooth operation of the team. “It is an internetwork and for one to get a code, we have to do that on the internet. The connectivity here is bad making it difficult for us to do our people’s works,” he said.
Lamah said the card is secondary but with the code, one can be able to also access their certificate which is more guaranteed. He further disclosed that over 15,000 persons participated in the first ten days of exercise and they are anticipating vaccinating more of that number throughout the process.
He assured the people of the district of receiving their vaccination code soon as they are working with head office to address the issue as fast as possible.
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 FrontPage Africa.