YAOUNDE, CAMEROON – Cameroonian authorities are battling reluctance to vaccinate with only eleven percent of doses received since April distributed, most due to travel requirements. The Cameroonian government and clergy are struggling to convince the public that vaccines are safe.
A group of 70 Cameroonian Muslims gathered at the Djoungolo government hospital in Yaoundé on Friday to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Coordinator of the Council of Imams and Muslim Dignitaries of Cameroon, Moussa Oumarou said that the reluctance to vaccinate forced him to convince the group.
He says the Cameroonian government has asked the clergy to convince their supporters that the vaccines could save their lives.
Oumarou says that every religion that puts God first seeks to protect human lives. He says it is both a divine and a civic obligation to protect lives by agreeing to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Oumarou said the council called on all imams and Muslim dignitaries in Cameroon to agree to be vaccinated and to encourage all their worshipers to be vaccinated.
Cameroonian health authorities say only 75,000 people have been vaccinated since April, when the government received 700,000 doses.
And most of the doses given, officials said, went to people planning to travel outside Cameroon, including expatriates.
A 37-year-old teacher in Yaoundé, Rigobert Fonbanla, said many Cameroonians did not trust authorities urging the jab after a COVID fund scandal and the seizure of fakes.
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“The same government that asks people to agree to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is the same government that is investigating the authenticity and origin of the coronavirus vaccines,” Fonbanla said. “It is possible that corrupt government officials imported fake COVID-19 vaccines or produced questionable COVID-19 vaccines. I will wait until the investigations announced by the government are completed before I can decide whether or not I will be vaccinated.
Most of a $ 335 million loan from the International Monetary Fund to Cameroon to fight COVID has disappeared.
Last week at least 15 ministers were summoned to the Supreme Court of Auditors to justify their handling of the funds.
In December, Cameroon announced that its army had seized several tons of fake COVID drugs and vaccines from neighboring Nigeria, raising fears that more fakes were in circulation.
Cameroonian Minister of Health Manaouda Malachie said the COVID vaccines used are of good quality and recommended by the World Health Organization.
He says the vaccines are not mandatory but will be given free of charge to all civilians who want to save their lives from the deadly coronavirus. Malachie says Cameroonian President Paul Biya is very concerned about having transparency on all COVID-19 vaccination procedures. He says the State of Cameroon cannot joke with the lives of its citizens.
To encourage Cameroonians to get the vaccine, hospitals in the northwest region said in April they would waive the usual $ 2 consultation fee.
In May, the Cameroonian government ordered all its ministers and senior officials to be vaccinated in public.