COVID-19: Convince your people to get vaccinated – Awandare to chiefs

Professor Gordon Awandare, Director of the West African Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) has called on government to involve chiefs, traditional and religious leaders in the drive to get Ghanaians to avail themselves for vaccination, especially people who are skeptical about the advent of the vaccines due to conspiracy theories surrounding the vacci9nes.

He said this in an interview on Midday Live on TV3, Wednesday, February 24.

Prof. Awandare, when addressing the issue of a segment of the population having misgivings about the vaccines said “people need to see their role models taking the vaccine and being fine so I know there are plans for the president to take the vaccine on camera and I think they should extend that to all the regions and all Members of Parliament in their various constituencies publicly taking the vaccines”.

“We should get chiefs and traditional rulers to take the vaccine in public and that will assuage the fears, no matter how many signs we see, for some people, this is a matter of faith, believe it or not, and there’s nothing that can change it.

“So I think that if they see people that they know and respect, traditional leaders, chiefs, political leaders taking the vaccine publicly and being fine, not falling sick, and not having the side effects that people are talking about. Then I think we will be making progress, so let’s show it, let people see the vaccine been taken by these people and that will calm their fears” he entreated.

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He further indicated that “in our society, people believe their pastors more than their regional ministers or parliamentarians so chiefs and religious leaders are very critical if we can get them on board to talk directly to their congregations on Sundays, let the chiefs hold durbars where they will publicly take the vaccine and answer questions from their people about the vaccine and reassure them that there’s nothing to be afraid of, I think that would be very important in gaining widespread acceptance for the vaccination.

“As we move forward we have to be tracking those who take the vaccine and providing data to demonstrate that the vaccine is making a difference in those who have taken it if we can show that the older people have taken the vaccine and they are okay and the frontline workers who are handling the patients have taken the vaccine and they are protected then people will start to believe, so I think we have to show that the vaccine works, by people who the general public will trust”.

Prof. Awandare further posited that he is willing to take the jab to demonstrate to the general populace that, as a scientist who knows how the vaccine works he is confident of its safety and efficacy.

“I am willing to take the jab anytime, for people to believe that as a scientist, the vaccine that they have brought are not meant to do any harm, people have to remember that over 200 million doses of the vaccine have been dispensed, most of those are in the US and other parts of Europe and we haven’t heard that anybody has fallen and died”.

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“We just need to relax and look at the evidence, if the vaccine was so bad why would the western world give it to their people first before sending it to us? We have received only 600 thousand and we are celebrating but that is a drop in the ocean for us, we need 21 million doses to be able to make a difference, in fact, we need 42 million and we have only 600 thousand, so that’s just a drop, only good for frontline workers in Kumasi and Accra” he pointed out.

On the other hand, Prof. Fred Binka, Clinical Epidemiologist at the School of Public Health at the University of Health and Allied Sciences(UHAS) has expressed concern about the importation of the Russian vaccine, the Sputnik V citing that the European Union(EU) and the World Health Organization(WHO) has not endorsed it for public use.

“Because the WHO has the clout to bring all the scientific power to bear on this if the WHO has prequalified it then we are relaxed, at least a stringent authority has looked at it and we can then follow. As we speak, yes it can be a political problem but the European Union has not approved the vaccine(Sputnik V)”.

“The Sputnik and the AstraZeneca deployment must have two different approaches, the Sputnik has two vectors, one vector in dose number one and a different vector in dose number two, the study that was published in the lab test shows that they gave dose one and 21 days later they gave dose two. In our situation, we must track that, if we end up giving dose two first before dose one, there are no data to indicate whether it will produce the same result” he directed the deployment authorities.

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He went on to stress that “the AstraZeneca is using the monkey type of virus that causes cold in the monkey, so how both of them behave, we are not 100 percent sure. But the whole issue is that each one is using one of those to avoid duplication in man so I will not agree that we should mix them”.

However, some vaccines like the Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna uses MRI technology to allow them to reconfigure different genetic instructions more easily to combat the newest strains of the virus around the world.

By Barima Kwabena Yeboah||Ghana