President Julius Maada Bio became the first person to be vaccinated in Sierra Leone as the country rolled out its Covid-19 vaccination programme on Monday.
President Bio was inoculated at a special ceremony at State House in Freetown, alongside the country’s Vice President, Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, and other top government officials, including Cabinet ministers and lawmakers.
At the start of the ceremony, President Bio said he was the first in the country to get the jab so as to encourage citizens to get vaccinated.
“I cannot ask people to take the vaccine without taking it first,” he said.
The National Coronavirus Response Center (NaCOVERC) said the country received vaccine donations from China and the WHO coordinated Covax programme.
Sierra Leone currently has 296,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccines, comprising 200,000 doses of the Chinese made Sinopharm vaccine and 96,000 doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine from the Covax facility.
The NaCOVERC said they targeted to cover 150 people on Monday alone, mainly “high-profile politicians.”
Officials did not disclose which version of the two available vaccines President Bio took.
A spokesman for the NaCOVERC told The EastAfrican that that information is personal and up to the person receiving the vaccine to decide on whether to disclose the details.
Harold Thomas, Risk Communication Lead at the NaCOVERC, said personal information is considered to determine which of the two vaccines will be administered to individuals.
There have been fears in the public about the safety of the vaccines, especially the Sinopharm jab, and some people have suggested that the president and his senior government officials take the vaccine first to assure them of its safety.
Following Monday’s vaccine rollout, a Grand National launching is slated for March 22 at the Miatta Conference Center in Freetown, where officials say the focus will be on healthcare workers, as well as people above 60 years of age. Vaccination for the rest of the country will start thereafter.
The launch of the vaccination programme comes amidst dwindling Covid-19 cases in the country.
As of March 14, Sierra Leone had recorded 3,937 cumulative confirmed cases of the virus. The Western Area Urban (comprising the capital Freetown and its environs), has been the epicentre of the pandemic in the country, accounting for 2,244 cases of the total cases.