Covid vaccine is not an act of charity – but in all our interest

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone telegraph: 18 July 2021:

Since the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, the world has stood still. In midst of all the panic, the anger and frustrations lies buried deep, the loss of many lives. Without doubt, the pandemic has left the world and its people needing a big reset button. AS we all know, our lives have ceased to be what they used to be, as working patterns, business dealings, school curricula, relationships and ways of living have been tweaked here and there.  While some have given the pandemic biblical interpretations for its prevalence, others have delved into the bowels of the art of conspiracy to promote their own understanding.

Even though it is a common affliction that has no regard or boundaries for race, creed, nationality, class, etc, this pales into significance in the light of the controversies surrounding it. The issue of the pandemic will never be complete without corresponding but different opinions. Despite the differences, some things are certain; Covid is real, and it is deadly.

While procedures, restrictions, preventions and finally vaccinations have been used to combat this global scourge, one is left with the impression that Covid is very reluctant to see the back of us as it continues to mutate into deadlier and more resistant strains. It is as if Covid 19 is saying “since the world has learnt to shoot without missing, I will learn to fly without perching”. The race against time and to save lives have never been more imperative. Evidence shows that this virus has the potential to paralyze the world, if it had not done so recently.

But it is the British “traffic light system” of Green, Amber and Red; a risk assessment and risk management plan that is used to deal with potential covid human vectors, that has caused a lot of furore in the neck of my woods, Sierra Leone. In summary, the covid “traffic light” generally categorises the precautions, restrictions, and conditions that visitors and travellers in and out of the UK must adhere to, under the “Stay in the UK” drive.  The UK government implemented the “Stay in the UK” on May 17 this year, to restart but regulate international travel using, the traffic light system. Sierra Leone had comparatively been in the “amber “list but will be downgraded to “red” on Monday 19th July. This is purely down to the covid situation in each country. It is this change of status that has caused a lot of angst, frustration, and anxiety among people and especially Sierra Leoneans.

Below is a snapshot of the latest data WHO dashboard.

  Cumulative total New Cases in 24hrs Deaths-Cumulative Deaths in last 24 hrs
Sierra Leone 6,122 22 113 0
United Kingdom 5,281,102 47,891 128,593 63
Africa 4,531,636 35,859 106,074 720

Looking at the data above and though tempting, it is understandable to see why some might see the UK government’s latest red card…… sorry red list status as punitive. Many in their infinite wisdom, have given copious reasons for the country’s new red list status. But again, others have pointed the finger at President Maada Bio’s government as solely responsible, though some will say for obvious reasons. One social media commentor even said that Bio’s government has been hyping the rate of covid in the country, because it wanted more money from WHO. Interestingly, the red list status is neither managed nor determined by WHO but the UK government. That view is dead on arrival.

But according to the UK, the traffic light system is solely determined by the covid situation in individual countries. By implication, Sierra Leone’s Covid situation has worsened. Many say that since the recently concluded European Nations football competition, the UK has seen a steady rise in the number of cases. It gets more ironical that despite the spike in the number of cases, the UK is ready to relax its restrictions on the same day that Sierra Leone will qualify for the red list. This means that as from Monday 19, masks will not be mandatory, although some settings like hospitals and other enclosed areas will still require it. Some have branded the move as daft.

According to local sources, Sierra Leone has recorded about 1000 cases in the last four weeks. Although this remains unverified, it appears to be comparatively low to that of the UK, which is relaxing its restrictions. So, what is the difference here? According to UK media reports, The UK has one of the highest vaccinated of its citizens in the world. There are eighty million, seven hundred and ninety-five thousand, eight hundred and fifty-two (80, 795,852) people that have received the vaccine.  That is a solid percentage there.

In Sierra Leone, a source said that the country has vaccinated just a mammoth 3% of its population. According to a reliable source, the government has over six hundred thousand (600000) vaccines in its possession, and ready to dispense FREE of CHARGE. Sadly, and regrettably, those vaccines are due to EXPIRE AT THE END OF THIS MONTH, JULY. So, if the UK is ready to relax its restrictions in the face of rising cases of a more virulent Delta strain, where is it borrowing that sort of confidence from? It is fair to say that “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings. The UK’s confidence is in the success of its vaccine drive. But there could be a hidden message here; that Covid is here to stay and we must now learn to live with it.

In contrast to many other countries, it is still a surprise to many that until recently, the number of reported covid related deaths or its prevalence in Sierra Leone remained mysteriously low. Alhamdu lilahi for that.  When you compare the length to which other countries have gone to tame this virus, you wonder how come our country is still standing. In the absence of a vaccine, we collectively relied mainly on preventive measures. In addition to treatment and isolation centres, it meant that PCR tests, especially for international travellers and “social distancing” were and continue to present a seemingly viable preventive measure. The government has implemented recurrent state of emergencies with night curfews and mandatory mask use. But just like night follows day, a curfew at night, followed by a jamboree at Dove Cot or Kroo Ton road market is as futile to social distancing as putting out a sea tanker fire with a drinking cup of water. Tell that to sisi Marie at Congo ton market.

It goes without saying that Vaccine Hesitancy is one of the main reasons why the uptake is relatively low in our country. Among the numerous factors responsible, myths, conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine preachers, culture, and by some stretch of the imagination religion, to name but a few have all contributed to stemming the vaccine process. There are some people who may want to use the Ebola outbreak, with all its inherently virulent and catastrophic toll on our people as a reference point. Some have been saying that unlike the Ebola, the Covid has comparatively claimed a lesser number of lives.

There are also some who see the case of malaria as more lethal in the country. That should not in any way provide comfort to anyone, and for obvious reasons. If we are going to stand any chance against this virulent delta Covid strain, and if we are to increase our chances of preventing a complete paralysis of our economic and social lifelines, it is imperative that PCR tests and social distancing alone will not be enough. Our vaccine hesitancy could cost unavoidable loss of lives. As for those preaching against taking the vaccine, what are they offering as alternatives? Raw soup or gbangban? Zilch.

The vaccine has shown an infinitesimal number of people have gone on to experience side effects, against the backdrop of medical conditions in some patients. And just like the flu vaccine/jab, people tend to get brief side effects. Some would say that the Covid vaccine may not provide a 100% fail proof, but it is the closest we can come to an INSURANCE policy against the virus. Besides, the vaccine gives an emotional release from the emotional asphyxiation that comes with Covid restrictions: wash your hands, don’t shake hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze, keep two meters apart, wear a disguise, sorry a mask etc.

The fact of the matter is that our collective vaccine hesitancy does not only present our country with the potential for a significant out break and loss of lives, but also the risk of serious threat to many financial services. With the UK leading the way in baptising our country, it only takes a few other European countries to follow suit, hopefully not, to bring our travel industry to a standstill. Even the “jesses” will be forced to stay away; how de Christmas go sweet ba? With our economy on life support machines, it is any body’s guess as to how much strain it can take to survive.

As for those helping to fuel the anti -vaxx theories and in effect vaccine hesitancy, what have the vaccinated got to lose? The UK may not have given specific reasons why Sierra Leone has been added to the red list. As a measure of risk assessment and management, the UK’s standard reason is down to the covid situation in our country. With that known, if our vaccination rate was, let’s say 60%, would Sierra Leone be in the red list? Don’t answer that, but I am sure you know by now what we need to do as citizens to get out of the red zone.

As citizens, we have a collective responsibility to not only prevent the spread of, but to protect ourselves and loved ones from this virus. With our perceived propensity to ignore mask mandates or maintain social distancing, the Vaccine gives us the best chance to carry on with our normal lives. The vaccine is the nearest we can come to a semblance of protection against this pandemic. Getting the vaccine is not only for personal reasons but for the good of us all. Just ask Boris Johnson. Monday 19th is FREEDOM DAY in the UK.

The year 2020? I wont recommend it. GO GET YOU VACCINE MEK WE COMOT PAN LOCK BUSH. VACCINE DE SAVE LIFE. Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.

4 Comments

  1. Recently, the world health organisation reported Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinea, Comoros, DRC, Malawi, Mauritania, Liberia and others of destroying Covid19 vacine. Quiet clearly, the life span of this vaccines is short and has to be kept in freezing conditions.As we are in the tropics witb limited access to storage facilities, its hard to see what our out of touch president could have done better. Nevertheless, One is tempted to blame NACOVERC and the Bio government for not driving the vacatination program the way it should be, by launching a public information campaign to drive home the advantages of taking the vaccine. This vaccine hesitancy is not limited to under develope countries like ours. Recently, the Biden administration accused Social media gaints providers for not taking down enough conspiracy theorists or vaccine deniers, from their platforms.

    The net effects, cases around the United States is going up, especially amongst vaccine deniers. And this exceptional rise is being replicated across , Europe and other parts of the world like Brazil where people are eager to get the jab, but with limited supplies can’t get the jab. Ironically, thanks by no means to their covid19 denier president, Bolsonaro, that was until he caught the covid19 virus himself.That was his light bulb moment. No more denying whats killing his fellow Brazilian citizens in their thousands. In the context of Sierra Leone, NACOVERC and the Bio government needs to up their game in spearding the message about advantages of having the jab. If not you, but the people you come in contact with. Conspiracy theories apart,traditionally Sierra-leone and many other African countries have certain tribes that believe in the practice of voodoo to ward off evil sprites or in some cases bring them wealth.

    During the NPLF and RUF wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, some traditional fighters believed if they fight naked, or wears certain amulets, they will be immune from gun shots. More like they act as bullet proof. Now the challenge for governments is to try and convince that man to take a vaccine, you can see the gaint leap government and public health bodies have to make, to speak some sense in some of our fellow Sierra-leoneans that are wedded in such way of thinking . The fact of the matter remains , covid19 doesn’t discriminate. When you catch it, you don’t need any medical advice to tell you it is the real thing.

  2. What a codswallop . What a tosh. How can the British government know about infection rate in Sierra Leone it the government did not give them that information. Where did we get our test kit from and how reliable are they ? Who are the people doing the test and analysing the results. Where is the lab they are doing the test ? Allegedly we can buy a vaccine certificate from officials . I don’t believe the case is as serious as our government is making. The Bio government wants to get money from the international community and so they are milking the situation, forgetting the damage it is creating for it citizens.

    And also the bigger picture is the election in 2023. They will blame their failures on the virus, giving them reason to postpone the election because they dare face the country in an election. PLEASE DON’T GIVE COVID A BAD NAME. TAKE YOUR VACCINE AND LIVE PEOPLE ALONE.

  3. Looking at the “number” of covid cases in Sierra Leone, yeah, one has to scratch his or her head pondering the placement on the red list. Our numbers are low and we don’t have the Delta variant going crazy in the country, so it does not make sense. The US might have close to 75% of its population vaccinated, but statiscally, just going on numbers, if I had to be forced to mingle with a crowd, I would rather do so with Sierra Leoneans in Sierra Leone than Americans. As the UK govt is giving SL the red card as you put it, and an amber one to the US, the US is still seeing a daily average (last 7 days) of 26,000 case, UP FROM 15,000 daily average, the previous 7 days, so. Also, and even more important, the US says unless you are American, you are not allowed entry, coming from the UK, but the UK is playing pussy foot with the US. The US has hit a wall with it’s vaccination drive, because the majority of those left to be vaccinated are anti vaxxers. You would think with such a high percentage of refusers, the UK would take that into consideration and be more strict.

    Then again, as Boris Johnson is looking to be strict, which I don’t neccessarily disagree with, he very recently initially refused to isolate after coming into contact with the health minister who tested positive. So is he making rational decisions? As far as our beloved, we really do not have that many people that would resist (my opinion). By that I mean, if the govt made a serious concerted effort to get more people vaccinated, they would show up to get vaccinated, if you took the vaccine to them, they would take it. So we are getting vaccines for free but can’t even get people vaccinated. It would most likely have been the same scenario regardless of who is in power, but what a useless govt. Our low vaxx rate is the result of an ineffective govt. Another thing, while yes, we and most of Africa, suprisingly, have been favorably looked down upon by the covid Gods, I really do not believe those numbers of only 6000 total cases. Not saying the govt is lying, but with our health system where unless people are close to death or can’t take it anymore, they don’t go to medical facilities, can we say we are tracking the majority of cases?

    A lot of people only get mild symptoms, something they would not go to the hospital for. I know someone who says they took a test and had covid antibodies, even though she never knew she had covid. Others again, would not go unless they had to and then there is the fact that a high number of our population does not have access to medical facilities. So being that we are not completely isolated like tribes in the Amazon, there is no way only 6000 people have gotten it. That said, when you consider all those Sisi Maries and their customers at our markets, which never got shut down even at the heights of the pandemic, we are very lucky indeed. Lastly, with our “low” numbers, if we had an effective govt that did more than go beg for money, they’d approach the UK govt and raise a fuss. We should definitely be on the amber list.

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