COVID-19 vaccination begins in The Gambia as President Adama Barrow takes first jab

"This is the final solution", the President said as he took the first shot at State House

Abdoulie Sey
Gambian President takes first shot of COVID-19 vaccine
UNICEF/UN07632/Manka
12 March 2021

The President of The Gambia, His Excellency Adama Barrow launched the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign and took the first dose of the vaccine at State House on Wednesday 10th March. The launch came less than 10 days after the first shipment of 36,000 COVID-19 vaccines were delivered to The Gambia by UNICEF on behalf of the COVAX Facility. The AstraZeneca vaccines will be administered to frontline health care workers, people with underlying health conditions and those aged 65 and above.

“The Gambia has received 36,000 doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine under the COVAX package. This is remarkable”, President Adama Barrow said at the official launch of the vaccination. “On behalf of the Government and People of The Gambia, I express sincere gratitude to the Global Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and WHO for this important development.”

COVAX is a global initiative co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key implementing partner UNICEF, working to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries. Over recent weeks, UNICEF and WHO have been actively working with the Ministry of Health in the planning and preparation for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines and the roll out of the vaccination campaign. 

“This is indeed historic and also a momentous occasion for every Gambian,” said Minister of Health Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh. “I must reiterate that the Government of The Gambia only accepts vaccines that are safe and effective, and these vaccines have passed the test. COVID-19 has stretched our health system to the limit but with the support of the government and partners and with the hard work and dedication of the frontline workers, we are where we are today and COVID-19 did not have a stronghold in this country.”

The Gambia is expected to receive sufficient vaccines before the end of the year from the COVAX Facility to ensure the vaccination of 20 per cent of the population, approximately 480,000 people. Already, a total of 156,000 doses have been allocated to The Gambia by COVAX to be received before May. Meanwhile, a shipment of more than 926,0000 COVAX syringes is due in The Gambia on 12th March, complementing 37,500 syringes that were already received on 28th February.     

“In the case of The Gambia, we were fortunate to be among the first five countries on the African continent to receive the COVID-19 vaccines”, said Gordon Jonathan Lewis, UNICEF The Gambia Representative. “The excellent effort at global solidarity and multilateralism is moving extremely quickly, and this represents a significant milestone in the history of public health of The Gambia. We believe that with this, we are going to reach that vision which is that there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.”

Wednesday’s vaccination launch was attended by cabinet ministers, religious leaders, heads of UN agencies, diplomats, including representatives of the seven COVAX donors in The Gambia – UK, US, EU, France, Spain, Germany and Qatar – health workers, security officials, and the media.

“The arrival of vaccines through the COVAX Facility in The Gambia and Africa is a significant triumph in the history of public health and should be celebrated,” said Dr Desta Tiruneh, WHO Representative in The Gambia. “On behalf of WHO and COVAX partners, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to all donors for putting their money and trust in the COVAX Facility. Without COVAX, many low and middle-income countries such as The Gambia would’ve been completely left out.”

“It’s remarkable; I feel so happy,” Mary Bobb, the public health official who administered the first jab to the President and Vice President said shortly afterwards. “This is a great relief for all of us.”