Paynesville — The government of Liberia has begun administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccines recently donated by the United States Government to people age 18 years and above, and for those who have not taken any COVID-19 vaccines.
The rollout of the J&J attracted a huge turnout at various sites in Monrovia including the Paynesville City Hall where it was officially launched.
The event attracted officials including Foreign Minister Dee Maxwell Kemayah, Health Minister, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah and newly arrived United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Jim Wright and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Country Director Dr. Rachel Idowu, among others.
The Risk Communications Manager of the Incident Management System (IMS), Chester Smith told reporters that the IMS and the Montserrado County Health Team, have set up 40 health facilities across Montserrado County, 10 temporary sites including the Monrovia City Hall, Paynesville City Hall, Barnersville Town Hall, GSA Compound, and Farmington Hotel in Margibi County to administer the vaccines.
The IMS has also designated 20 market sites for J&J vaccination including the Waterside Market, Red Light General Market, Goba-chop, Jacob Town Market, Redemption Day-Gardnersville, Jukpen Town, ELWA Market, Duala Market, Kuwait Market, Clara Town, Old Road, Poultry Market (Red Light community) and the VOA Market in Brewerville, Duport Road Market, Rehab Market, Rally Town, Roto Town Market, Pepperwood Town Market, Barnesville Market and 72nd Market.
All persons 18 years and above are eligible for the J&J COVID-19 Vaccines, including Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, people with medical conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, etc.).
He disclosed that a new batch of 96,000 AstraZeneca vaccines is expected to arrive in the country this week and called on people who have taken the first dose and awaiting the second not to panic but wait for the vaccines’ arrival.
On top of the massive rollout in the coming weeks, the government is targeting a little over 2 million people to reach the herd immunity threshold.
The World Health Organization defines ‘Herd immunity’, also known as ‘population immunity’, as the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through the previous infection.
“As a country, we are targeting a little over two million people. We have hundreds of Liberians signing up for the vaccines. We are doing community engagements; we have now certified 40 facilities and will also be using 20 markets sites,” he said.
He said the rollout is happening at a time the country’s COVID-19 cases have dropped significantly. “Liberia has drop the active cases to 54, and that is a tremendous effort. We want to maintain this.”
Also speaking, the Deputy Program Manager of the Expanded Program on Immunization at the Ministry of Health, Nicholas N. C. Blidi said the rollout is a big jump in the fight against COVID.
Mr. Blidi said building on the experience from AstraZeneca, the Ministry of Health, in addition to the designating sites for the J&J vaccines, will also dispatch its mobile team at various ministries and agencies to boost the exercise.
With the ongoing exercise and the imminent arrival of AstraZeneca, he expressed optimism that government’s target of immunizing 52 percent of the population (a little over 2 million) will be achieved.
Responding to the misinformation that are being spread about the vaccines, he said the vaccine is safe and is advisable for everyone – 18 and above to take it.
Commenting on the side effects associated with it, he said every medicine has some forms of side effects when they do not outweigh the benefits, then they are medically safe. He stressed that only those who have not taken the AstraZeneca should take this one.
On July 25, 302,400 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the United States via COVAX arrived in Liberia. According to a statement on the U.S. Embassy website, the donation is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s global efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Embassy, in the statement, noted that the U.S. Government coordinated closely with the African Union and Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make the donation possible.
USAID Mission Director Wright applauded the Ministry of Health’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Liberia, especially its commitment to vaccinating the Liberian people: “The decision to send the vaccines to Liberia was due in no small measure to Liberia’s successful handling of the first tranche of vaccines.”
He also emphasized the safety and effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, “Let me be clear: This is a safe vaccine. U.S. regulators approved the J&J vaccine last February. Since then, almost 13.5 million Americans have received this very same vaccine, and tens of thousands more are receiving it every day,” the statement said.