Vaccine hesitancy is seriously militating against government’s efforts to stem COVID-19 spread in the Ahafo Region, Dr. Ziem Bernard Aanoume, the Director, Public Health at the Ahafo Regional Directorate of Health, said on Tuesday.
He said unfounded theories and myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines had sunk deep into the minds of the people, and thereby affecting the vaccine rollout.
Dr. Aanoume said this when he addressed the opening session of the training of COVID-19 Myth Busters at Goaso, the regional capital.
The Busters are a group of people selected from various communities who would serve as champions and whip people’s interest to take the COVID-19 vaccine in the region.
Dr. Aanoume said since the COVID-19 vaccination was rolled out, only 43 per cent of the regional population had taken the vaccine, with only 29 per cent fully vaccinated.
The JSI Research and Training Institute in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) through the Global VAX Project being funded by the USAID under its Strengthening the Care Continuum Project organised the training.
Participants, including leaders of youth groups and faith-based organisations, teachers, traditional leaders and artisans, would further help debunk misinformation and disinformation on COVID-19.
Dr. Aanoume explained “COVID-19 is not like malaria” and asked those who had already taken the vaccine to go for the booster doses, saying because the disease was novel, there was the need for those who had taken the double dose to make themselves available for the booster to build their body immunity.
“We should know that these vaccines come with some cost, so if we receive these vaccines and we don’t utilise them, then we are not helping the government. If we were to procure the vaccines for our own, we would have not even vaccinated 10 per cent of our population”, he said.
Dr. Aanoume said severity, risk of death and complications were significantly low among those who had vaccinated, and tasked the group to work hard to ensure the acceptance of the vaccines by the people to help reduce incidences of new infections and deaths.
Mr Razak Agyei Mensah, a Disease Surveillance Officer, said the region recorded its first case count on June 8, 2021 and last case on August 5, 2022, saying so far 1,210 cases had been confirmed out of 4,966 suspected cases recorded.
He said 1,175 people had recovered from the COVID-19 in the region, representing 97.1 per cent as well as 35 deaths with no active case, saying those recovered included 183 health workers, 264 students and 18 teachers.
On vaccination, Mr Agyei said out of the targeted population of 451,548, including pregnant women and people aged 15 years and above, only 197,297, representing 43.7 per cent had been vaccinated.
Throwing more light on the USAID project, Mr Richard Adupong, Communications and Knowledge Management Advisor said the JSI would specifically be leveraging its existing network to mobilize people aged 15 years and above, pregnant women, people living with HIV, people with disabilities, and migrant populations to access COVID-19 vaccines in the Western, Western North and Ahafo Regions.
The main objective is to ensure an increase in COVID-19 vaccination awareness, acceptance and update of the vaccine by these targeted populations by supporting the GHS to achieve national vaccination targets in a safe, accessible and equitable manner.
Specifically, Mr Adupong said the project provided implementation support to the GHS to accelerate the delivery of 3,003,035 COVID-19 vaccinations in the project implementing regions.