Cameroon health officials having administered only 110 of the 591,000 doses of Sinopharm and AstraZeneca received three months ago, take vaccines to markets, churches and door-to-door
It is June 28, at the Yaoundé Central Hospital Covid-19 vaccination centre, a week to the announced five-day national vaccination days.
Vaccination starts from 9:00am to 2:00pm. But at 12:00pm, there is no-one at the centre, except four staff members. Empty seats welcomed Cameroon Factfinder.
It is was same scenario at the Gynaeco-Obsteric and Paediatric Hospital in in Ngousso, on Friday, June 26.
This situation depicts low Covid-19 vaccination turn-out in some centres, others registered mostly foreigner with only few Cameroonians.
Rumour and Misinformation Drive Low Vaccination Rate
Meanwhile, on the streets of the capital city Yaounde, many have their reasons for not taking a jab.
“I cannot take that vaccine, I saw my superior collapse and was reanimated after taking a jab, she was hypertensive and diabetic. Then, a chief in my village died after taking the jab. You see all those government officials they are not actually vaccinated” Esther Maya, a hospital support-staff tells Cameroon Factfinder.
On April 11, Cameroon received 200,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, and a week later, on April 17, 391,000 doses of the British AstraZeneca.
Manaouda Malachie, Cameroon Health Minister, took the first jab on April 12, but, watching the video, many Cameroonians like Maya claim the syringe did penetrate into his body, arguing it was just a public show.
The hospital staff is not alone, “I live with a doctor and he has not encouraged us to follow him and take the vaccine”, Glovis Ntein a student tells Cameroon Factfinder.
Other young people are equally worried about the information on social media.
Like ‘doubting Thomases’, they say have not seen someone down with Coronavirus.
Nor, someone who has taken the jab and can testify how it works and the side effects.
These varied opinions have skewed what people believe.
Reported side effects in some European countries with AstraZeneca have not helped the situation, thus stopping Cameroonians from heading to vaccination centres.
Professor, Wilfred Mbacham, a virologist, Chair- Management Committee of the African Regional Cooperative Agreement (AFRA) is one of the few who have taken the first and second doses, and is healthy and hearty.
“When I took the first dose, I had slight headache, and more intensified headache for about four days after the second jab, but did not feel the pain on the vaccination spot”, Mbacham testified.
“I went for a for anti-body checks after the first dose, they did not find anti-bodies but found out my cellular immune system was very highly stimulated and that is what offers protection against the Coronavirus”, Mbacham explained.
As of June 6, the Covid-19 vaccination situation according to the Enlarged Programme of Immunization, EPI, showed, 66,216 administered first dose, only 14,229 administered second dose.
The UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, OHCA Cameroon, suggests a reason for low vaccination turn out and the trend of low second jab.
“Despite the communication strategy elaborated by the Ministry of Public Health and its partners on the vaccination against COVID-19, mobilization of people is limited. The multiple-dose vaccines discourage recipients and there is a general lack of follow-up and mobilization strategy for the second dose of the vaccine”, OCHA report said.
The Covid-19 situation in Cameroon figures show 80,487 cases, 1320 deaths according to the latest figures from Africa CDC.
Taking vaccination to markets, churches
Malachie in release on June 16, announced national vaccination days from July 7-11 through the country and in 250 centres.
The national days, Njoh Andreas Ateke, Deputy Country Manager for EPI, says is, “aimed at scaling up vaccination using interpersonal communication with mobile teams, in markets, churches, enterprises, schools and door-door”.
“We hope to vaccinate 2.5percent of the total Cameroon 26 million people from 18 years and above. But, in the long term, we are aiming at vaccinating 40 percent of the population. The country is also ready to receive, 5,3million doses of Johnson & Johnson”, Ateke stressed.
Ateke worries that the hope to break the transmission chain is still low, with less than 5 percent vaccinated.
Effects of low vaccination
Third wave of Covid-19 in Africa according to Africa CDC is registered across 15 countries, DR Congo, Uganda and South Africa most affected with the Indian variant.
Though not yet in Cameroon, there are fears the third wave might be catastrophic if the population does not adhere to immunization.
“This would be a bigger burden, more costly for the state to handle”, Ateke laments.
Another problem is that some persons do not go back for the second dose. Mbacham says those who have taken only a dose are just like those who have not.
“They are not protected, if they have to be protected, they must be lucky to have been infected after the first dose”, he adds.
He suggests the possibility of a jab of AstraZeneca and second dose Sinopharm.
The underlining issue is for the vaccines to trigger the protection as they target the spike protein.
If there is a third and a fourth, wave it will likely sweep through the population who have not been exposed to Covid-19, it may be the virulent and the less virulent, Mbacham adds.
Cameroon and some African countries have not seen massive deaths, Mbacham suggests foods in this part of the world could be a contributing factor. And it is difficult to predict what would happen if there is a third wave.
“It could be that some people go with the right foods and some good habits of washing hands, keeping social distancing, wearing masks, but the third wave can hit anybody at any time”, Mbacham suggests.
The second wave was more virulent than the first, and it is difficult to predict how the third and fourth would be, but from virus history, they become less virulent during the fourth wave.
The concern for Mbacham is, “every individual who dies from Covid-19 is a waste and human beings should not be wasted”.
People should go for vaccination and get the two doses.
There are many variants circulating in Cameroon, three variants in October 2020, December 8 variants. There was a variant in travelers of central Africa and the second wave of the viral infection was caused and the South African strand.
A group of pathogen genomics in Cameroon lead by Mbacham is following the evolution of the virus in collaboration with a university in Nigeria to ensure that there are no more new variants that come in.
World Health Organization fears the vaccines in Cameroon would expire on August 23.