Authorities in Cameroon say fewer than 300 of a targeted 300,000 state workers have agreed to be vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks into a campaign. Some civil servants who spoke to VOA hold a mistaken belief that the virus is no longer a threat in Cameroon. But health officials say vaccinations in the Central African state must be stepped up amid concerns about another wave of infections.
Several dozen people enter and leave Cameroon’s Public Service and Administrative Reform Ministry Thursday morning. At the ministry’s courtyard is a new stand where civil servants can get COVID-19 vaccines free of charge.
Vaccination team member Roland Njalla said only 11 of the expected 400 ministry employees have volunteered to be vaccinated over the past 10 days.
“People are not well informed and edified as to what the vaccine is going to bring as an advantage, as a plus. People are afraid, they don’t know the side effects of the vaccine. I think that is the principal problem,” he said.
Cameroon officially launched a one-month campaign to vaccinate at least half of its 600,000 active and retired government workers against COVID-19 on November 10. Vaccinations started five days before the official launch.
The Public Health Ministry says it has vaccinated just 300 of the 300,000 expected active and former state workers.
Public Service and Administrative Reform Minister Joseph Le said he is pleading with workers to accept the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This campaign is intended to ensure that the professional environment is not a place where the virus spreads, but a suitable environment for professional development for all of us. We will continue to emphasize that vaccination is the only way to protect ourselves from the devastating effects of this terrible pandemic,” he said.
Cameroon announced last month that the COVID-19 Delta variant was present in the country and infection rates were increasing.
The health ministry is encouraging people to be vaccinated and continue to wear face masks, wash their hands regularly and keep at least a meter from each other.
Health Minister Manaouda Malachie said people are reluctant to take the vaccine because of lack of awareness, rumours and exposure to misinformation spread mainly on social networks.
Manaouda said 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, whom many Cameroonians consider their mentor, once called vaccinations the most powerful of all preventive health measures. He says the COVID-19 vaccine saves lives and reduces the risk of getting and spreading the virus.
The Cameroon Bar Association said last month that some government officials were blocking unvaccinated civilians from public offices.
Evaristus Morfaw Nkafu, president of the General Assembly of the Cameroon Bar Association, said no law compels public service users to provide vaccination cards.
“There are some authorities who have decided that those who are not inoculated will not enter into their premises. It means they are discriminating against Cameroonians. Rather than coercing, I think the government should educate the people. They should persuade the people and even give incentives,” said Nkafu.
Nkafu said a campaign to raise awareness on COVID-19 vaccination should be offered to those who are hesitant by reaching out and providing crucial information about where they live.
The government denied that it is compelling people to be vaccinated.
It is definitely encouraging the jabs. Only one-half per cent of the targeted 12 million people were fully vaccinated as of October 30.