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GMA, nurses blame vaccine hesitancy, relaxed protocol: As COVID-19 numbers rise again

BY: Doreen Andoh
Dr Frank Serebour — GMA President
Dr Frank Serebour — GMA President

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) and the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) have attributed the surge in local COVID-19 infections to the high vaccine hesitancy and abandonment of the safety protocol.

Active local COVID-19 cases that reduced to 20 a few months ago rose to 1,064 as of June 13, 2022, and to 1,255 as of yesterday[June 20, 2022], with eight severe cases and one critical case.

At a joint news conference in Accra yesterday by the two associations on their perspectives on vaccine hesitancy, the President of the GMA, Dr Frank Serebour, said the observance of the safety protocol and the vaccination had been the combined game changer and the foundation for the successes in controlling COVID-19 infections in the country.

That, however, was being threatened by vaccine hesitancy and non-adherence to the safety protocols, he said.

Dr Serebour underscored the need for the public to return to strict adherence to the safety protocol, particularly the wearing of face masks in crowded places or enclosed places with other occupants.

He also appealed to persons eligible for COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses to get the jabs.

He reiterated that the vaccines deployed locally and internationally were safe and effective, providing adequate but varying levels of protection.

“That is the only way to keep the pandemic abated, prevent a fifth wave and a possible return to COVID-19 restrictions,” he stressed.

Hesitancy data

Dr Serebour bemoaned the high percentage of vaccine hesitancy among health workers, in particular, saying it had a ripple effect on the public.

“COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy remains a challenge for vaccine uptake in Ghana despite some gains made. The partnership for evidence-based response to COVID-19 report puts the overall vaccine hesitancy in Ghana at an average of 30 per cent, with people under 25 years leading the hesitancy score.

“Data from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) also indicates that 35 districts out of the 260 have less than 25 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated for COVID-19.

“Among health workers, it is estimated that 40 per cent have not received the second doses of vaccination, and less than one per cent have received booster doses.

“We see these developments as worrying, especially concerning health workers. This is because health workers, particularly doctors, nurses and midwives, are not only on the frontline of care, but remain the most trusted sources of information and access to vaccination,” he said.

Action

Dr Serebour said for that reason, the GMA, GRNMA and the Health Promotion Division of the GHS had come together to address the vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers and the public.

He said they planned to transform about 2,000 health workers into vaccination champions and build their capacity in risk communication and community engagement to address issues of disinformation and misinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccination.

“We also will be collecting data on the reasons underpinning hesitancy among health workers to understand and address the concerns and misunderstandings that exist,” he said.

The President of the GRNMA, Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo, called on stakeholders, especially the media, traditional and religious leaders, and youth groups to encourage and advocate vaccine uptake.

Health promotion

The Director of the Health Promotion Division of the GHS, Dr Dacosta Aboagye, said the GHS, in partnership with key stakeholders, was increasing public education on vaccine uptake and the safety protocols.

He said if the public failed to get vaccinated and to adhere to the safety protocol and cases continued to surge, the state could be forced to impose restrictions.

“We beg you to get vaccinated. The disease is still with us. We appeal to the media to sustain their public education drive,” he said.

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