The heaf of Risk Communication and Community Engagement for Ghana’s Covid-19 Response, Dr Aboagye DaCosta has assured Ghanaians that the country will make sure COVID-19 vaccines are safe.
Responding to research by the finder newspaper of scepticisms, misinformation and myths by Ghanaians and their unreadiness to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr DaCosta said the country has capable institutions to make sure Ghana receives safe doses of vaccines.
“When you get such a vaccine, we have rules and laws in this country so we will route it through the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to make sure that the safety and its efficacy is guaranteed”, he highlighted. According to him, the FDA, together with the Ghana Standard Authority and the Ghana Pharmaceutical Council, in the past years have approved a lot of safe vaccines and would have the capacity to do same with COVID-19 vaccines.
He noted that “There are so many misconceptions about the vaccine where people are saying it causes genetic mutation, your sperms and other things. Let me say that as it stands now, those are myths. They are not true,”
He added that his outfit has set out to intensify education and public sensitisation, in collaboration with its stakeholders and partners.
Using what he called “above-the-line method”, where media partners are used to engaging the public, and “below-the-line method”, which involves community engagements, Dr DaCosta was optimistic that Ghanaians would eventually embrace the COVID-19 vaccine.
The finder’s research
According to David Bartels of the Finder, a cross-section of Ghanaians say they will not take any COVID-19 vaccine whenever it becomes available in the country.
They cited lack of trials on the continent, conspiracy theories, the speed with which the vaccines were developed, and general lack of confidence in promoters of the vaccines.
Speaking to a cross-section of Ghanaians in Accra, some of the people explained that they would not take the vaccine when they are not sick.
However, some of them stated that they would accept the vaccine when they contract the virus and have severe symptoms which can keep them bedridden.
Even though vaccines have virtually eliminated the risk of many preventable diseases, generally, there has been an increase in refusal and hesitancy over the past two decades.
The Finder randomly spoke to 28 people between the ages of 30 and 65 on the streets of Accra on whether or not they would take a COVID-19 vaccine if made widely available in the country.
Of this number, only seven, representing 25%, said they would willingly take the vaccine.
Four persons interviewed, representing 14%, said they would vaccinate only if the vaccination is made mandatory.
The remaining 17 people said they would not take the vaccine whether they contract the virus or not.
Interestingly, 13 people, representing 46% of all people interviewed, said their decisions were informed by social media (Facebook and WhatsApp) messages and videos.
One lady, name withheld, claimed to have seen a video that said the COVID-19 vaccine was the mark of the beast.
“They say if you take the vaccine, they will put a chip in your hand,” she said.
In her opinion, if she is vaccinated, she would go to hell for accepting a vaccine that represents 666, the mark of the beast as stated in the bible.
Kojo Atibu, a 31-year-old researcher who has decided not to take the vaccine, argued that the COVID-19 vaccines available on the market may not work on Africans and may cause adverse side effects because sub-Saharan Africans did not participate in the various trials to make sure it will work on Africans.
“They piloted it in Europe, America, China, and our climate is different from theirs so for fear of maybe having side effects, I won’t take it,” he explained.
Just as a section of people in other countries is opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, the situation in Ghana is no different.
Abdul Jamil Issaka, an administrative officer at the local government office, said he would take the vaccine only if it is locally approved.
“I would want to be vaccinated, but I would, first of all, want to hear from our scientific institutions in Ghana whether they have endorsed it or not,” he added.
Benjamin Koranteng, a shop owner, said he would not take the vaccine because Ghanaians do not need it.
“We are doing well. Let the white people use their vaccine because they are the ones dying. See, I’m not sick and I don’t think I will ever contract the virus,” he stressed.
“I don’t trust the COVID-19 vaccines; so, no; I will not take,” Roberta Ampadu Nyarko, a civil servant, said.
Siino Issaka said he would not take the vaccine because he has not had any credible information on the vaccine, except conspiracy theories.
“I don’t trust this vaccine. There are too many conspiracy theories surrounding it.
“If it is truly the coronavirus antidote, I will take it,” Portia Ababio said.
“I am not going to take the COVID-19 vaccine until I have seen the results of those who have already taken it. If nothing bad happens to them after some time, maybe I will take it,” one respondent said.
Another person interviewed stated that “I’m not sure about mandatory laws on vaccination, but I believe each one of us should have a right to want to take it or not. I have travelled, and before travelling I was forced to take the yellow fever vaccine. So, if the situation becomes critical for me, I will take the COVID-19 vaccine”.
A biochemist encouraged Ghanaians to take the vaccine, saying, “I’m a biochemist and I know that vaccines are good so if it’s made available in Ghana, I will take it, and I encourage everyone to do same. I believe they would have done enough clinical trials to make sure it’s safe”.
“I will not let them inject me. They will bring us a fake vaccine,” a gentleman said.
“As for me I know myself that I will never get the coronavirus so I will not let them vaccinate me,” one person boasted.
“I drink lemon water and other local herbs every morning so I am healthy. I don’t need a vaccine,” another person stated.
“I will not take it, but I have aged people with a weak immune system in my family. With them, I can get some for them, but myself I’m not sure,” one person interviewed said.
Responding to the religious connotations of the mark of the beast, General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, Rev Dr Cyril G. K. Fayose admitted seeing a couple of those videos himself.
“…A lot of conspiracy theories. I’ve personally seen a lot of them that have been linked even to scripture, and the mark of the devil and so on.
Chips that will be implanted into us, and Bill and Melinda Gates and there is another name, one of the top guys when it comes to health issues in the US (Anthony Fauci) was also mentioned and these people are working very hard to make us all robots,” he narrated.
He acknowledged that the new technology used in developing the COVID-19 vaccines on the market is different from the conventional vaccines, but emphasised that it has nothing to do with the mark of the devil.
He explained that the council has a health wing called the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG), made up of clinical experts, which has supported vaccination in the country for decades.
He said that once the new vaccine was approved by these professionals, the council would join the campaign for COVID-19 vaccination.
“I will take the vaccine as long as my technical experts, that is CHAG, says there is no problem with this particular vaccine. The allegation that there is a certain new kind of vaccine that attacks your DNA has not been proven to us to be the case at this point. Until that is done, we are going to accept the vaccine because it’s a good way to fortify yourself against diseases,” he said.