Sanniquellie, Nimba County — People who have been vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine say the side effects are not as alarming as it is being portrayed by anti-vaccine campaigners.
Report By: Joseph Solo, Jr. | Inspire Health Reporting Fellow
Speaking to the LocalVoicesLiberia following the launch of the vaccine in the county, some residents who were among the first group of people to be immunized in the county, recounted how they experienced brief side effects.
Rufus Leesaw, a resident of Gono Town Community — a suburb of Sanniquellie, said he was frightened from the onset when he was being encouraged to take the vaccine.
“At one point I felt like giving up on this vaccine issue,” he said. “How would I take a new drug that many people say was not good for human consumption”.
But when he finally braved the storm to get his jab, his perception changed a day later. He experienced a brief fever which would go away after taking painkiller.
Leesaw now feels protected and has also encouraged all his family members, who are over 18 years, to get vaccinated.
“As an employee of the LRRRC, I interact with foreigners from cross borders and if I am not protected against COVID-19, I would be endangering the lives of my family and the community at large,” he said.
Former City Mayor of Sanniquellie Madam Mary Nya-Gonlepa also took a breath of relief a day after getting inoculated with the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. She’s even more confident about the vaccine safety and efficacy.
“Our people should not listen to the too many “they say” [rumors] because from my experience, the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is intended for our safety,” she said. “I am not feeling specific pains or anything — what I experienced was ‘sincere sleep’. I slept like a baby, and I have been feeling better since I got vaccinated.”
Residents of Border Community Getting their Jab
Meanwhile, several other people who have been vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine have shared their experiences on Radio Nimba – a major community radio station in the county. One person, who phoned in from Wea Beeplay Buu Yao District along the border with Cote D’Ivoire, said he thought the jab was a “sleeping portion” when he took it.
“Normally it is difficult for me to sleep during the daytime, but one day after I took that Johnson and Johnson vaccine, I slept in the day like never before,” said Alfred Karntua, who added that he now believes the vaccine is safe.
Mr. Karntua, a coco framer, said he decided to take the vaccine because he’s aware of the threat COVID-19 poses to other developed countries with better health care systems.
“This other sickness is not like malaria or typhoid that can be treated with country herbs, that’s why I did not overlook it,” he said, adding that he has also encouraged his family members to get vaccinated.
“At first, we were listening to people who said the vaccine that 666 initiations, but my dear, when the county health team started reporting cases from our district, especially those traveling from Ivory Cost, we started taking the vaccine seriously,” adds Lucy Karbeah, a resident of Loguatuo – a town also bordering Ivory Coast.
“A day after I took my one dose at the Loguatuo clinic, I woke up in the morning as usual to go sell in the market, but my arm was heavy, and I was feeling slight headache. I then took some painkiller tablets; that was all. I went to bed sound”.
On September 7, Nimba County Health Team began rolling out of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine with vaccination sites setup at 45 health facilities across the six counties. The county received 40,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson and 4,500 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines from the Ministry of Health.
In addition to the 45 centers, mobile teams are travelling to hard-to-reach communities to ensure that rural residents are vaccinated, the county health team said recently.
Rural Residents Ready for COVID Vaccine
Meanwhile, a team of social mobilizers sent across the county to ensure that rural communities have access to information about the Covid-19 vaccines say people in hard-to-reach communities are in dire need of the vaccines.
According to the head of the team, Cecilia Kortoe, locals they’ve spoken to in these rural communities are prepared to get vaccinated.
The team comprising of Nursing students from the Nimba University were sent under the supervision of the Nimba County Health Team with support from Diaspora Nimbaians Fighting Covid-19 in Nimba County.
“We were surprised at the way the people welcomed us in their towns. We started the campaign from Sanniquellie Mah Health district from September 15 and ended in Tappita Health District,” Kortoe said.
“Our strategy was to have talks with the community dwellers and explain the health tips about the vaccines and the benefits, including the raffle draw that will be carried out by the Diaspora Nimbaians in November for those who will take the vaccines”, Miss Korto explained.
“When we told them, especially those in Zoegeh and Saclepea Mah health districts, that the messages were from their children, they agreed that they would never bring anything evil upon them. They willingly told us that when they vaccines reach them, they will get vaccinated”.
Miss Korto however observed that several communities, including Fleedin in Saclepea recommended that the Nimba County Health Team send vaccinators to their towns.
“During our training, the county health team told us that whenever we come reach a community where the people need a team of vaccinators, we should send the information to Sanniquellie and that’s exactly what we have been doing. We told the county health team and they told us that a team has already been dispatched,” she added.