Sanjally Trawally, the new Acting Director of Health Promotion, said an estimated total of 84 thousand school children both in conventional and non-conventional schools, have been vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Trawally said this during an interview with this reporter, on how the COVID-19 Vaccine has helped mitigate the pandemic for school children.
"We targeted schools including Madarasas and Majalis which are non-conventional schools. We can safely say that 84 thousand school children between the ages of 12 and 17 years, have been vaccinated against Covid-19," said Mr Trawally.
According to him, the vaccination has been found to be the most effective preventive intervention for Covid-19 by reducing the severity of the disease.
He said one of the most effective preventive interventions for school children is vaccination, and that this has helped their programs, because schools are easily accessed; that it reduced their logistical arrangements in terms of coverage because the children are grouped at one place, rather than going for them.
In vaccinating the school children, he said they have employed processes such as mass sensitization campaigns on radios and meetings with some organized groups; that they also communicated to the Education Ministry, and were given the clearance and approval to conduct vaccinations in schools.
He further disclosed that the other strategy they applied was to include regional offices to reach out to schools, contrary to claims by some schools that they received the information late. He said this compelled them to re-send health officials to those schools to sensitize them on the vaccine.
"Our advocacy now is for the people to take their third dose. Some of the challenges include vaccine hesitancy because so many things were said about the vaccine, such is the claim that it was hastily done. But it was given a priority globally, and it was resourced and tested and we do not have any major problem with it. We can say that the vaccines are safe and effective," he said.
He urged Gambians to continue observing the precautionary preventive measures such as physical distancing, use of face masks and regular hand washing. He said the pandemic is still around and that it is real.
Jainaba Njie, a Grade 10 student said she has taken both her first and second doses, and said she is yet to experience any bad side effect of the vaccine.
"I want to challenge my fellow students to get their COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is safe and effective, and it is the only way to protect oneself against the deadly COVID-19 disease, which took the world by surprise," she said.
Ngoneh Secka, a Grade 9 student also said she took her first dose of the vaccine, and plans to get her second dose. She lamented that the pandemic has affected her academically, saying that their school was ordered closed by the authorities in order to curb the spread of the disease.
"This was a welcome decision that came with its corresponding disadvantages on my education, because I did not have any effective lectures when our school was closed, and the online classes introduced by the Education Ministry were not effective. This has impacted on my performance during the examination," she lamented.