22 March 2021
On 20th March 2021, close to 200 frontline health workers at the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM received the first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccination exercise is part of the national rollout of vaccines in The Gambia, led by the Ministry of Health, and supported by various national and international partners. The vaccines were provided to the MRCG at LSHTM by the Ministry, through the COVAX initiative, and administered in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) prioritisation guidelines.
The Unit’s vaccination exercise was designed and rolled out by a Coordination Committee with key members managing various aspects of the rollout.
Unit Director, Professor Umberto D’Alessandro said, “The vaccination of our staff is an important part of our work, and we are grateful to the Ministry of Health who provided the vaccines in the framework of the COVAX initiative. Our vaccination programme is fully embedded in the programme of the Ministry, and we are part of that plan. Vaccinating all our health workers and frontline staff means that we will be able to continue our operations and activities, including those that are towards the population of The Gambia.”
Dr Ed Clarke is a member of the Coordination Committee and shared that, “It wasn’t very clear, for some time, when The Gambia would receive the first doses. It’s really great that we got them so quickly and that the MRCG at LSHTM has managed to coordinate getting frontline health workers protected. COVID-19 is having very serious effects on people. It’s killing people and making people very unwell in The Gambia. This is the way to protect ourselves and the people we live, love and work with. The vaccination is painless, and I encourage everybody to get the vaccine as soon as they can.”
Lamin B Jarjue, a Clinical Trial Officer, is one of the volunteers for the vaccine rollout at the Unit. As a vaccinator, he expressed delight at the turnout on the first day and encouraged other eligible staff members to attend the next exercise. He added, “Everything was well organised. The flow from the reception and screening, to the vaccination rooms was just outstanding. It was a smooth process and made our work much easier. Our staff were very cooperative.”
Shortly after receiving her first dose of the vaccine, Dr Carla Cerami, also a member of the Coordination Committee said, “I am very happy to be among frontline workers who received the vaccine. It is really a good opportunity for us, and I think it’s really important that we all take it.”
Isatou Ais’hah Mahmoud, Clinical Research Nurse remarked, “I am so grateful for the privilege of getting the vaccine. It means so much to me. It means protection for my patients, friends and especially my immunocompromised parents.”
She emphasised that young people who have access to the vaccine should definitely take it and protect themselves, adding that they should also educate their friends and parents on the importance of taking the vaccine, and be proactive to make sure the senior citizens get it.
Higher Scientific Officer, Haddijatou Allen urged people who may be hesitant to take the vaccine to refer to reliable information sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO), and speak to health workers who are informed about the vaccine, so that they may address their concerns.
Over the next few weeks, the Unit will continue the vaccine rollout for staff in the priority groups, including personnel in the field stations. Staff members who have already received their 1st dose are booked to complete the vaccine round with their seconds dose in the next 8-12 weeks.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the MRCG at LSHTM has worked closely with the Ministry of Health to deliver an effective public health response geared towards stopping the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives in The Gambia.