Today, the first working day of the year, marks another milestone in Ghana’s fight against Covid-19, as the country rolls out a covid 19 certificate programme. This initiative makes the vaccine mandatory for targeted groups including the public sector and health workers.
The covid-19 pandemic caused an upset to the world. Two years into the outbreak, there has been one surge after the other with some countries in a fifth wave. For now, health experts say the only antidote to curtail the spread and further devastation to the world is vaccination. Although Ghana has seen an increase in the supply of vaccines, vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy theories around it remains a challenge. Like other African countries, it has seen a sluggish uptake in vaccinations, compelling the health authorities to adopt other strategies such as the covid-19 certificate or passport because of a rise in infections and the spread of variants such as Omicron.
By this, an unvaccinated person risk being denied access to some public places, such as schools, hospitals, and restaurants. Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang Manu who announced this encouraged Ghanaians who want to visit such places to get vaccinated.
“It is also going to be mandatory, to visit the following venues: night clubs, beaches, sports stadia, and restaurants so all those who want to go to eat in indoor restaurants should be vaccinated and we have a way of checking on your vaccination cards”.
Whereas some Ghanaians GBC ONLINE spoke to were in the know of the directive others were not. Described as one of the strictest measures against the pandemic, they are appealing to health authorities to take a second look at the directive on compulsory vaccination.
Phyllis said, “personally, I don’t want the vaccine looking at the side effects and the news I’m hearing about it, I don’t feel good about it. We all have freedom and rights so they can’t infringe upon our right with something that maybe someone doesn’t want”
“On condition of anonymity, another person said, “I think it’s a good directive because when you do that everybody would be safe.”
“I have no idea about that but I think it’s a very good initiative once we are trying to reduce the spread of the covid. Also, it shouldn’t be something imposed on someone,” said Nana Yaw.
Linda who is in Accra for holidays said, “I don’t know whether I have the virus or not, besides in my village at “Praso Cocoa Ase” it is only teachers and health workers who have received the jabs. The rest of us have not been covered and I don’t know how the vaccine looks like.”
A private school teacher in Accra, Francis Martey, is equally concerned about how the directive would pan out in schools.
“I’m in JHS two or three and my parents don’t want me to vaccinate. Meanwhile, the school is saying that if you don’t vaccinate you cannot come to the school. If we don’t take care, some people will stop the school. We are pleading with the government; it shouldn’t be something compulsory.”
Already countries like Ecuador are implementing a similar initiative while others are having plans to introduce a similar one. But that is not enough reason to introduce such in Ghana, as members of the Peace and Freedom Lovers Movement argue. A member of the group, Rev. Bright Albright maintains the mandatory vaccination is unwarranted and would fight it legally.
“The mandatory vaccination is unconstitutional, illegal, unreasonable, and therefore unacceptable. We are determined to fight the government in court for the withdrawal of the unwarranted force vaccination.”
For an efficient covid-19 vaccination drive some Ghanaians have suggestions.
Mark suggested, “Give information to people in the area, those who are willing, you vaccinate them and go.”
“The Ghana Health Service should be up and doing and make sure that whoever has not received vaccines gets the vaccine,” said another.
Phyllis suggested, “The government should give us sometime maybe in the next six months with that people will start making their minds.”
“Covid vaccination must cover all villages and not a preserve of cities. I would appeal for an extension of about six months during which most people would have been covered,” added Linda.
As the working year commences, it is the hope that consensus would be built on the Covid passport initiative to avoid unnecessary heckling that could come along with the implementation of such a directive.