A manual containing additional information on the Coronavirus vaccination in Ghana is being developed by the Information Ministry to intensify public education in the coming days, former deputy Health Minister, Dr. Bernard Okoe Boye has hinted.
The guiding document is to among other things provide a step by step update on the country’s efforts in vaccinating its citizenry against the virus following Ghana’s receipt of 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India and distributed by COVAX, a global vaccine sharing initiative.
To dispel scepticism about the vaccines, the government has said there will be sustained public sensitization campaigns by the Local Government Service, Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, National Commission for Civic Education and Information Services Department to educate the public on the upcoming immunization exercise.
On Saturday’s edition of The Big Issue, Dr. Okoe Boye admitted that not much has been done by health officials to sensitize the public about the exercise, but said, the coming into force of the manual will go a long way to fill gaps that have been created in the public health education drive.
“I agree that we have not had a lot of talk about the vaccine, but it is not too late. The Ministry of Information is developing a manual that will be comprehensive for all stakeholders so that we are always on the same page in terms of the content. I think it’s far advanced, and I will not be surprised that the Minister-designate will launch it soon. So we are doing our best,” he said.
Explaining further, the apparent delay in educating the public on the vaccines, Dr. Okoe Boye who is also a member of the government’s COVID-19 taskforce added that Ghana has a track record with its Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) which puts the country a step ahead to carry out the vaccination project with minimal hitches.
“We couldn’t have started education on vaccination at a point where the focus was on treatment or when the vaccine was being developed. We had to get good and strategic signals to show that we are just about getting the vaccines before we roll out. You can’t give education on a vaccine that has not been developed and approved for use, but I agree that we can make more noise for the public to know about it now.”
Regulatory body, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has approved the AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines for use in Ghana.
The vaccines which came in last week will be deployed to designated health facilities from March 2, 2021, and are expected to be administered first to frontline health workers, and high-risk persons and people over 60 years, to slow the progression of the disease.
Aside from the planned sensitization campaign in markets, lorry parks, churches, mosques and other public places to provide further clarity on the vaccination exercise, some government officials will also be taking the vaccine jab publicly to boost confidence in vaccine rollout.
This Dr. Okoe Boye believes is a means to send strong signals to the ordinary Ghanaian that the vaccine is safe and effective for use.
“We did a lot of research on vaccine acceptance and resistance. There are a lot of trust issues. A lot of people feel this vaccine was developed by the white man who wants to exterminate us. So as part of the rollout, we need to have influential, key players, decision-makers to get vaccinated so that it will send a signal. When we see the President who is urging all of us to take the vaccine is seen on live television receiving his shot, it won’t derail our effort”, he noted.