Liberia has made headway with its COVID-19 vaccination having fully vaccinated 70% of the total eligible population since March 2021, when the vaccination programme kicked off. Robust coordination between the government and its partners, an effective COVID-19 steering committee and multiple mass vaccination campaigns have contributed to the country’s success.
Now the country is ensuring that its most vulnerable people are protected from severe illness, hospitalization and death from the virus. Efforts are underway to achieve high levels of vaccination among high-priority groups, including health workers, older adults over 60, people with co-morbidities and refugees and displaced people.
Preparations are underway for a COVID-19 vaccination day at the Bahn High Extension School in Bahn, Nimba Country, north-east Liberia.
The school is situated just outside Bahn Refugee Camp, which is home to around 10 000 refugees who fled post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire more than a decade ago.
The school, which offers education to both Liberian and refugee children, is one of the sites offering community- based COVID-19 vaccination.
“Our target is to make sure that more people in the community get vaccinated. That way we will all be safe,” says Oretha Vanwen, a community health worker who administers COVID-19 vaccines to refugees and the host community alike.
In line to register for COVID-19 vaccination is Bernard Manhan, a 57-year-old father of eight who resides in Bahn refugee camp. Along with his wife and children, he fled to Liberia in 2011.
Manhan was a member of an opposition party during Côte d’Ivoire’s parliamentary elections in 2011. In the violence that followed the elections he lost most of his family members.
“I was being hunted by rebels,” he says, recounting a treacherous experience fleeing to neighbouring Liberia for safety. “I still fear for my life. This is the reason I have not made any efforts to go back home,” he says resolutely.
Coming to Liberia was a great relief for Manhan and his family as they now have access to essential health services, including COVID-19 vaccination.
Partners such as the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) is supporting efforts by World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that people like Manhan are not left behind in the country’s efforts to protect vulnerable populations from severe impacts of the virus.
“When I heard of the COVID-19 vaccination I was not convinced that it was safe and feared becoming impotent, as those were the rumours circulating,” he says.
“However, my wife went ahead to get her jab, and nothing changed. She has remained very healthy. I then decided to get vaccinated, and I am happy I did,” he says, proudly displaying his COVID-19 certificate.