President Dr Julius Maada Bio has taken the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine during a symbolic ceremony at State House, where Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh and opposition politicians also took the jab.
Before the vaccination, the President responded to the declaration of purpose of the occasion by Minister of Health and Sanitation, saying that because it was a major milestone, he would take the leadership in receiving the vaccine.
“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, had said the combined total of 296,000 SinoPharm and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines being offered by the Government of Sierra Leone had undergone many tests and proven to be safe and effective because millions of people around the world had taken them.
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Austin Demby, said the day was a very special day for Sierra Leone, adding that with the show of political will, they now had 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’. His Excellency, thank you Sir for your leadership.
“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 had 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 had 296,000 doses of vaccines, they would only be able to enrol just under 150,000 individuals, because those were 2-dose vaccines given 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.