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Lack of Access to Covid Vaccine Remains a Concern for Rural Residents of Bong County

Bong County – Residents of several rural communities in Bong County have expressed willingness to get the Covid-19 jab but the lack of vaccines remains a concern.


Report By: Emmanuel Mafelah | LVL Health Report in Bong County


Recently, the County Health Team Officer Dr. Jonathan Flomo praised people of the county for showing up to get inoculated in the ongoing vaccination exercise, revealing that Bong County is on the right trajectory.

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.  In early September, the County Health Team began administering 29, 400 doses of the J&J vaccine received from the Ministry of Health.

These figures could significantly increase but people outside the county capitol, Gbarnga, especially those in hard-to-reach communities might not get doses of the vaccine.


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


James Cammue,29, is a resident of Plemue in Yellequeleh District. He is willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available.

“When the vaccines enter here now, I will be one of the very first persons to get vaccinated, it is important,” Cammue said. “My entire family including my girlfriend, my father and my mother – we are all set to get vaccinated as soon as we received vaccines here”.

Peter Yarkpawolo, 39, is a motorcycle mechanic in Garmamue, Suakoko District. He claims rural residents are being marginalized by the CHT.

“Since the first vaccine (AstraZeneca) was launched in the county by our health people and this new one (J&J), we are yet to receive some in our own of town. You cannot expect us to pay our way from here to Gbarnga to take vaccine in this hard time,” he said.

Yarkpawolo was hesitant about the getting the vaccine but with ongoing messages about the vaccine efficacy and safety, now he has joined the call for mobile vaccination team to visit rural communities.

Residents of Tokpaplee District – which is almost two hours away from Gbarnga – are also ready to get the vaccine. But the absence of a vaccination center in the area is diminishing residents’ interest in getting vaccinated, said Moses Kellen, the District Commissioner.

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.

Despite the challenge of travelling to the vaccination centers which are hours away, some residents including Peter Tellewoyah,19, are willing to make the trip for the vaccine.

“Instead of waiting for the vaccination team to come here, I will travel to the C. B. Dunbar in Gbarnga or the Phebe hospital in Suakoko District to get vaccinated,” Peter said.

And Habakkuk Leetor, Youth President of Kayata Town, has also planned to travel to Gbarnga to get vaccinated.

“I will be coming to Gbarnga very soon with two of my citizens to take our vaccine,” Leetor assured. “We cannot continue to wait for the county health team to bring vaccines for us here”.

Leetor believes that the more people who are vaccinated, the safer the county will be against COVID-19.


Leetor believes that the more people who are vaccinated, the safer the county will be against COVID-19 | Photo By: Emmanuel Mafelah


Despite the challenge of travelling several miles from rural communities to access vaccination centers in Gbarnga and amid calls for mobile teams to visit these communities, County Superintendent Esther Walker has still urged rural residents to improvise and get the jab.

“COVID-19 is a virus that does not distinguish the rich from the poor, urban or rural,” she said, adding that the virus kills everyone irrespective of their status.

Meanwhile, Bong County Health Officer has stressed that people should get vaccinated once they have access to the vaccine.

However, he disclosed that plans are underway to get vaccines to hard-to-reach communities across the county.

“The team will move from town to town to vaccinate people who have expressed interest in getting vaccinated, while at the same time telling citizens about the importance of getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Flomo.

 

 

 

Emmanuel Mafelah is a practicing journalist with over 5 years experience in broadcast and print media. He is currently a producer/reporter at Kwatekeh radio in Gbarnga, Bong County. Mafelah has served as county correspondent for The News Newspaper and the Global News Network Liberia, among several other national media outlets. Currently, he is the Bong County Correspondent for the News Public Trust. Emmanuel is a graduate of the Gbarnga YMCA youth journalism program.

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