Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 March 2021:
President Dr Julius Maada Bio has today shown leadership by taking the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the launching of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme held in State House, Freetown.
The President led a throng of other high-profile politicians, including Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh and senior opposition politicians to take the vaccine.
This will no doubt give immense confidence to a vast section of the population who are sceptical about taking the vaccine. Before taking the vaccine, the President said that he is taking the vaccine as a sign of leadership.
“That is to tell you that we should all try to be vaccinated as and when the vaccines are available for everybody. That is what leadership is about. We will give confidence to the rest of the population to receive their vaccines as and when it is available, so that we can get rid of COVID and pay attention to development, which should really be our preoccupation,” he said.
The National COVID-19 Emergency Response Centre, NaCOVERC, said that the combined total of 296,000 SinoPharm and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines being offered by the Government of Sierra Leone have been tested and proven to be safe and effective, and that millions of people around the world are taking them.
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Austin Demby, said that today is a very special day for Sierra Leone, adding that with a show of political will, they now have the tools in their arsenal to get ahead of the COVID-19 virus instead of reacting to it.
“When I asked the President if he would publicly take the vaccine, his response was ‘absolutely’. He also said, “as a leader, I would not ask people to take a vaccine that I am not willing to take myself”.
“We have shown resilience at every step of the way and today, with the new safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines, we take a bold new step in our march to get rid of COVID-19 from our country,” he said.
He added that in addition to other globally renowned regulatory agencies, both vaccines have been cleared for use in Sierra Leone through an Emergency Use Authorization issued by the country’s Pharmacy Board.
Dr Demby clarified that even though they have 296,000 doses of vaccines, they will only be able to vaccinate just under 150,000 individuals, each having two doses – 21-28 days apart.
“We expect more vaccines to come soon. As a result, for this first round of vaccinations, we will prioritize: Healthcare Workers, Political Leaders, Social Workers, Teachers and lecturers, Military, Police, Customs and Immigrations workers including Sea Ports and Airports, Prison Officers, Fire Force Officers, People over 70,” he said.