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Over 12,000 People Vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson Jab in Bong County

Gbarnga – Amid looming misinformation and rumors about the COVID-19 vaccines in Liberia, significant progress is being made with the inoculation of the population. In Bong County, 12,504 people have so far being vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while 1,011 people have also completed their full dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.  

Report By: Emmanuel Mafelah in Bong County

Health authority in the county said people are “showing willingness” to take either the J&J or the AstraZeneca vaccines. 29,400 doses of the J&J vaccine were sent to the county with the rollout beginning on September 8.

During a recent visit by a delegation from the US Embassy, USAID, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to Bong County, Dr. Jonathan Flomo, County Health Officer, praised people of the county for showing up to take part in the ongoing vaccination exercise, stressing that “Bong County is on the right trajectory.”

Dr. Flomo’s assertion is evident by the positive reactions by people in the county who have taken the vaccine. Speaking to LocalVoicesLiberia, residents say they “feel satisfied taking the jab” since it is proven that getting vaccinated prevents one from becoming seriously ill even if he or she contracts the virus.

Vaccine Confidence Heightens

Dozens of people attended the first day of the rollout of the J&J vaccine at the Tubman Military barracks in Gbarnga on September 8| Photo By: Emmanuel Mafelah

Josephus Baar, a student at the Phebe School of Nursing who is also a resident of Chief Compound community in Gbarnga, said he feels much better after getting the vaccine.

“These vaccines are good, especially the J&J because that’s what I took recently. My girlfriend and some other family members have already taken theirs,” said Baar, who also argues that people who are being infected with COVID-19 are those who have rejected the vaccine.

“Take your phone and make a research, go to the various treatment centers across the country, most of the people coming down with the virus are people that haven’t taken the vaccines and they stand at risk to any further outbreak.”

County Attorney Jonathan Flomo has also taken his jab. Before getting immunized, he was hesitant about the vaccine but he’s now confident that the vaccine is “one of the best ways to protect yourself and everyone around you”.

“The more people get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the county, the better it is for everyone,” added Atty. Flomo.

And Madam Marline Togbah Jarwoe, head of the County’s civil society organizations, agrees. She says that the vaccine is “one way to build the immune system against the virus”.

“The vaccines benefits continue to overshadow its risks, so all Bongese [people of Bong County] should get vaccinated,” she said. Madam Jaewoe disclosed that CSOs have joined the campaign to promote the vaccination by “informing the ordinary people about the benefits associated with the vaccines”.

A lady takes a shot of the J&J Covid-19 vaccine at the Camp Tubman Military Barrack in Gbarnga, Bong County on the first day of the vaccine rollout | Photo By: Emmanuel Mafelah

Another resident of the county who thinks that taking the COVID-19 vaccine protects people against severe illness or hospitalization is Mohammed A. Nasser, a politician and youth activist.

Nasser agrees that the vaccine is very much safe and worthy to be taken, noting that he now feels relief because the vaccine gives him protection against severe illness from Covid-19.

Washington Browne,32, a motorcyclist in Gbarnga city, said he had to brush aside the “false news surrounding the vaccines” by taking his shot and has since encouraged his wife and younger sister to get the jab as well.

“I was in doubt first when the vaccines business came to the country especially into the county, but after I read about the importance of these vaccines, I realized that it’s safe,” he said. But Browne is concerned that more awareness should be carried out to convince many commercial motorcyclists to get the vaccine.

Calls for Vaccine in Rural Communities  

Despite increasing calls to vaccinate the population, some rural communities do not have access to the vaccine. Moses Kellen is the Commissioner of the Tokpaplee District. He told LVL that residents in the district are willing to get vaccinated but getting access to the vaccination center is a challenge.

This means residents will have to travel for over an hour to get to the centers in Gbarnga. And Commissioner Kellen claims this situation has reduced citizens’ interest in getting vaccinated.

Explains Commissioner Kellen: “Before the coming in of these coronavirus vaccines into the county, we met with our people in almost all towns and villages in Tokpaplee, encouraging them to take the vaccine and telling them the importance of getting vaccinated. Many of them responded to us very well and they assured us that they were going to take the vaccine once it enters the county and taken to their local clinic facility closer to them.”

Commissioner Kellen, who has already taken the two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, is seeking the intervention of the county health team to make the vaccine available in rural communities.

Responding to Commissioner Kellen’s concern, Dr. Flomo disclosed that plans are is underway to get vaccines to hard-to-reach communities. He added that a mobile team will vaccinate community members that will be willing to take the vaccine but are unable to travel to Gbarnga.

Local Voices Liberia is a network of dedicated Liberian journalists based in the 15 counties working to lift the development concerns and progress of rural communities.

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