After testing hundreds of people for coronavirus, Cameroonian nurse, Judith Maya, plans a hero’s welcome for the first arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in the Central African nation.
“I have seen people die within days after I test them positive. I need protection and can’t wait to be vaccinated”, the 35-year-old told Xinhua in the capital Yaounde where the country’s first batch of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive at the weekend.
The delivery of 200,000 doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines, donated by China, will arrive on Sunday, said Shalom Tchoukfe Ndoula, Permanent Secretary of Expanded Programme on Immunization.
“Upon reception of these vaccines, we will distribute to the regions and the districts. There will be at least one health centre in every district,” Ndoula said, stating that over 500 accredited vaccination centres have been created across the country.
First in line for inoculations will be healthcare workers and those with chronic health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, according to Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health.
“The first objective is to protect the most exposed people,” Ndoula said.
Members of the general population will then follow.
Cameroon will provide COVID-19 vaccines for free under its national vaccination plan and vaccination will not be mandatory, according to officials.
Johnson Esunge, a virologist running a lab that has performed more than 10,000 virus tests, said the arrival of the vaccines will be “a breakthrough” in the fight against the pandemic in the country.
“Vaccines save lives. This will definitely change so many things,” Esunge said.
Misconceptions around the COVID-19 vaccines have discouraged some Cameroonians from taking the jab but not 59-year-old Josephine Ndabu who has seen the devastation wrought by the virus up close.
Last year, she lost four members of her family to the virus in less than two months.
“I hope to be vaccinated, and that’s it. I have done my own research and now know that the vaccines are safe and can actually help. I cannot be discouraged by fake news,” Ndabu said.
She plans to talk to those who may still be sceptical about the vaccine.
Like Ndabu, Antoinette Fatimatu who works at the Yaounde General Hospital, is hopeful that the COVID-19 vaccine would make a huge difference.
Fatimatu, 38, said she has tested more people than she can count. “The most difficult part of the job is telling people they are positive. They get scared,” she said.
The prospect of getting vaccinated excites her. “I want the vaccine like now now now,” she said enthusiastically.
Louis Ngwei, who deals in household utensils in the national capital, is excited about the inoculation.
Ngwei, whose business has suffered the adverse consequences of COVID-19, said he was upbeat about the positive impact of the vaccine on the economy.
“It pleases me that the vaccine will soon arrive. With that, I hope we can move forward and get through this sad phase and restart our lives,” the 55-year-old said.
The vaccination programme will be crucial for Cameroon’s efforts to revive its economy, which has suffered due to strict social distancing restrictions that hit consumer spending and saw job losses.
Cameroon reported its first coronavirus infection in March last year, an imported case from Europe.
Cameroon had registered 61,731 COVID-19 cases, including 56,926 recoveries and 919 deaths, tweeted Thursday by the country’s Minister of Public Health Malachie Manaouda.