Dealing with the ‘Santrofi anoma’ issue of this era

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari
People are apprehensive about the COVID-19 vaccine
People are apprehensive about the COVID-19 vaccine

Will you take the COVID-19 vaccine when it is made available? No doubt this is a question and issue many people have been thinking over, or discussing with family and friends.

Reassuringly, the news of the development of vaccines for the coronavirus was soon followed by an announcement by President Nana Akufo-Addo that the Government would order some for the country.

Strange that after the universal prayers for a remedy, now that there are vaccines, there appears to be a strong lobby against taking the vaccine.

It’s a situation which perhaps can be likened to the mythological santrofi anoma (santrofi bird).

The belief is that the beautiful santrofi represents a dilemma: if you kill it, you attract calamity; but if you let it escape, you have lost a treasure.

Well, if those of us here in Ghana are apprehensive, it appears that our compatriots in Europe and America – where the administration of the vaccines has already started – are even more worried, especially because some Ghanaians there have allegedly turned themselves into anti-vaccine preachers, notably on radio.

The ‘preachers’ reportedly back their position with arguments such as: the vaccine is not safe; it’s meant to kill blacks; and, “why should one take medicine when one is not ill?”

Apparently they have forgotten that before they flew out of Ghana, next to their passport and ticket, the third most important travel requirement was their health certificate, the essential proof that one had been vaccinated against diseases such as yellow fever.

Did they refuse to have the inoculation on the grounds that they had not yet contracted yellow fever?

So strident have the anti-vaccine preachers become that in recent times those who take the opposite view, have been circulating on social media platforms counter messages to encourage people to accept the vaccine.

One of them points out that the anti-vaccine campaigning is needless because even in the case of people with any underlying health conditions, they will not be given the vaccine.

Below is one of such educative messages, by a Dr Joseph Appiah, who describes himself as a senior medical doctor based in the UK. The audio is in Akan/Twi and the following is my abridged translation.

Dr Appiah’s message:
I’m circulating this audio because of the lies about the vaccines.

I feel extremely concerned that because of the false information, many people have decided not to go for the vaccine.

Yet, COVID-19 is very real.

When I go to work every day, I see the huge numbers of patients, the many deaths.

In short, the coronavirus is here to stay with us so we needed to find its antidote, like a vaccine.

Fortunately, there are now two main ones: The PfizerBioNTech and the Oxford-AstraZeneca one.

Both have been licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, the authority that licenses every medicine used in the UK.

If such a body has licensed the vaccines, then we have to believe them that the vaccines are safe.

Otherwise, logically, any other drug that you take – whether for hypertension, diabetes, or even painkillers - you have to question its safety because it’s this same organisation that licenses those drugs too.

The vaccine is safe. What some people are experiencing are minor side effects and allergic reactions.

Minor side effects, like headache, fever, tiredness are normal, as with, say, the flu vaccine.

I’m not compelling anybody to go for the vaccine.

I just want to help people know the lies being spread.

Some people even say that there is a different vaccine for blacks and another one for whites! Preposterous!

In any case, at present, blacks and Asians outnumber the whites in the National Health Service of the UK, so it’s blacks and Asians administering the vaccines.

Why would a black person inject a fellow African with a harmful substance?

To those spreading the unfounded stories, if you don’t want to have the vaccines, that’s okay, but don’t spread false information about it which might stop those who need it from getting the vaccine.

You might be in good health and so don’t need the vaccine, but your disinformation may prevent a vulnerable person from going for it and thus lead to their death. That is my worry.

And without vaccines there might be wave after wave of the virus.

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Now the views of a skeptic:
In another social media video, a doubter states his reasons for not trusting the vaccine:
1.Despite 40 years of research, there is still no vaccine for HIV.

2. Despite 100 years of cancer research, there is still no vaccine.

3.Despite ongoing research for the common cold, there is still no vaccine.

“Yet,” he concludes emphatically, “in one year, we have developed a vaccine for COVID-19 and you want me to take (it)?!

Thanks but no thanks!”

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His points are valid, of course.
But he seems to have forgotten something: the URGENCY of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly the frightening, staggering death toll.

Moreover, with HIV, cancer or the common cold, people are not having to wear masks.

We're not being compelled to: be anti-social; ban handshakes; stay away from family and friends; stop going to work.

Again, none of the above he cites requires us to wash or sanitise our hands countless times; or avoid touching surfaces and even our own faces.

From royalty, world rulers, religious leaders; down to the grass roots, COVID -19 is holding the whole world hostage!

If the vaccine will ensure that we will no longer have panic attacks every time we feel even an ordinary cough coming on, why wouldn’t I welcome the vaccines wholeheartedly?

Personally I can’t wait to be a beneficiary of this almost magic potion when it becomes available in Ghana, santrofi or not!

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