Experiences of some recipients of the COVID 19 Vaccine in Cameroon
Worldwide, millions of people have received the COVID 19 and more vaccines are given on daily basis. The global vaccine campaign has also seen its place in Africa as thousands of people have received the vaccines. Cameroon received 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine and later 391,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in April 2021 from COVAX. This was followed by a vaccination campaigned for health care workers in June. In July a mass vaccination campaign which was launched by the Minister of Public Health in all 10 regions of the country that ran from the 11th to the 17th of July 2021. According to our worldindata.org, a total of 418,000 thousand doses of the vaccine have been given in Cameroon with 74,476 people fully vaccinated giving a 0.3% coverage of the vaccination as of August 2021. This number falls below the target that was projected for Cameroon as many Cameroonians are hesitant to receive the vaccine, owing in part, to the misconceptions on the media about these vaccines and their after effects. The health division of the Nkafu Policy institute in the Foretia Foundation interviewed a few vaccinated Cameroonians to obtain first-hand reports of the surrounding circumstances and their experience pre- and post-COVID-19 vaccination. Five participants were purposively selected for face to face interviews, amongst which were two teachers, one engineer, one healthcare worker and one businessman.
The vaccine type that was taken
Four out of five participants took the AstraZeneca vaccine. What informed their choice of the vaccine was that it was the vaccine that was available at the time. This is because a majority of the respondents had received their first dose of the vaccine during the door to door campaign for the COVID 19 vaccine that was launched in Cameroon in July. This was so because the health care workers came to them and sensitized them on the advantages of the vaccine, the side effects to expect as well the fact that it was not force and they still had the right to choose not to get vaccinated. One of the recipients took Pfizer but this was not received in Cameroon. One of the respondent’s a teacher said
“I took AstraZeneca because that is what was brought to my school, it’s not like there was variety and I had to choose”.
According to the respondents, their choice of the type was not necessarily dependent on them but was informed by the vaccine available at the time. This probably explains why most of them took the same type of vaccine as that is what was available in the country at the time. The respondent who received Pfizer says he had a variety and chose this because from his reading this was the most potent and had less side effects.
Hysteria about the vaccine
The respondents were further asked if they were scared of receiving the vaccine. All the respondents agreed that they had fears of receiving the vaccine as there was a lot going on the media, reports on blood clotting among others. However, their desire to take the vaccine overwhelmed these fears and they still went ahead to take the vaccine. According to one of the respondents:
“Yes, initially I was scared with all the information about the side effects especially the one on blood clots, the fact that the vaccines took a shorter time and many other stories. But I also considered that this was a vaccine and the benefits were going to be more for me, so I still took it.”
Feeling after receiving vaccine
After receiving the COVID 19 vaccine, the respondents express their feelings in different ways. The respondents expressed a feeling of safety and confidence especially when going out and going about their duties. One of the participants who is a health worker says
I feel more confident after receiving the covid-19 vaccine. Now I go about my work without fear of being infected or infecting others.
One of the respondents had a different opinion and said he felt no difference after receiving the vaccine. According to him it was just a normal vaccine like all the other vaccines he had received so he feels nothing different after being vaccinated.
Motivation to take the vaccine
Furthermore, the respondents were also asked their motivation to take the vaccine. The vaccines were taken because of their jobs as they meet lots of people so there was a high chance of being exposed to the virus. One of the participants mentioned that he read around the vaccine developments, the science around all of the vaccines and this motivated him to take the vaccine even with the theories surrounding the vaccines, he still saw reason to take it.
Side effects after receiving the vaccine
In addition, the respondents also reported on the abnormalities they felt after receiving the vaccine. The respondents said they were counselled on the possible side effects prior to receiving the vaccine. The respondents reported side effects like headaches and heavy arm after receiving the vaccine but all these disappeared by the next day. There was no serious effect reported by any of the respondents after receiving the vaccine. Due to some theories over the media on the magnetism of the COVID 19 vaccine, one of the respondents had this to say:
…..I even tried placing my phone around the site of my arm where I received the vaccine just to experience the magnetism but there was nothing, nothing at all.
In all the respondents did not report any serious side effects after receiving the vaccine and have since been doing well. Although the opinion of just a few, this could perhaps dispel some of the misconceptions that still continue to plague the media about most of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Advice to those who have not received the vaccine
The participants message to those who have not been vaccinated was centered on getting to know more about the vaccines and this could probably inform the decision to vaccinate. The participants also vouched for the need for more campaigns on the vaccines as this could increase the chances of more people getting vaccinated. One of the female participants noted that
It feels good to be vaccinated. Read about the vaccines, get vaccinated to protect yourself and those around you…..
Cameroon is yet to hit its target for the COVID 19 vaccines. Cameroonians from varied backgrounds have taken the vaccine and some are willing to share their experiences. Their post-vaccination experiences are mostly positive, with a unanimous expression of overall safety. The driving force for uptake of vaccines among our interviewees included the need to protect self and others at the place of work, knowledge obtained by reading on the vaccines and vaccination campaigns that brought the vaccines closer to communities. It is hence our recommendation that another or more vaccination campaigns could be considered periodically to scale up COVID-19 vaccinations in the country. Furthermore, a large scale study could be conducted to assess perceptions on COVID 19 vaccinations among those who have received the vaccine and those who are yet to do so.