Data from the Ministry of Health (MoH) and National Public Health Institute (NPHIL) show that 79,576 men 70 percent, have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. On the other hand, about 34,104 women, or 30 percent have received at least one dose.
Correspondingly, more men have fallen prey to the virus than women. A total of 4,477 men have contracted the virus as compared to 1,308 women. This is out of a total of 5,782 confirmed cases since the virus entered the country on March 16, 2020.
Data obtained from the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia show a limited number of women vaccinated since the administering of the AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines across the country early this year.
“There are more men coming forward for the vaccines since the AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson become available in Liberia,” Health Minister, Dr. Wilhemna Jallah said recently: “We are not seeing more women turning out at designated COVID-19 vaccination site across the country and they should be becoming.”
She said at the launch of the second dose of AstraZeneca in Sinje, Cape Mount County, “The number of males who have taken the vaccine as 70% while the women as 30%. That means since the launch of both vaccines in the country more men have been vaccinated than women."
Dr. Jallah encouraged women to step up and take the Vaccine and constantly wear masks as it is one of the safest ways to prevent the virus.
Men make up 50.21 percent (2.54 Million) of the population in 2020, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources, while women are 49.73 percent (2.52 Million).
More men have also died of the virus. Out of a national total of 283 deaths, 207 are men while 76 are women, according to NPHIL. Deaths that happened in covid-19 treatment units are; at other health facilities are 77 and in the communities are 42.
The data implies that men are surmounting any concerns about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, even as women are more likely to report minor side effects as well as the incredibly rare major side effects, experts say.
Side effects that are considered minor but may cause concern to individuals include fatigue, sore arm, low-grade fever, as well as additionally reported rare lymph node swelling, which in some cases has caused “false positives” in breast cancer mammograms.
The widening gap between women and men taking the vaccines has caught the attention of the government and its partners.
“This situation has caught our attention. We are only encouraging our females to come out. They should not be afraid because of the misinformation that is going around about side effects. The vaccines have nothing on childbearing,” Liberia Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Francis Kateh, said at an event recently, “We are making strides to win at the fight against the deadly virus.”
Head of Immunization at the health ministry, Adolphus Clarke, said though the issue of low women being vaccinated is a concern, there are positive signals that the number could increase because the process is still ongoing.
Mr. Clarke said though the percentage might change anytime, there is no empirical evidence to show a clear reason for the low number of women vaccinated.
The Immunization head disclosed that they are in the process of conducting research to find out the reason for the low turnout of women.
“There is no study that shows COVID-19vaccine poses a risk to women who are pregnant or are trying to conceive. There is no evidence about the danger of COVID-19 infection to pregnant women. And I think this should encourage them to embrace rather than avoid vaccination.”
When quizzed on the women's fertility and menstrual cycle when vaccinated, Clark said there is no data showing that the COVID-19 vaccines may cause infertility or change the menstrual cycle.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks for all including women, and that there is no evidence currently of COVID-19 vaccines that cause fertility problems in women or men.
In August, the CDC officially recommended that pregnant people get vaccinated against COVID-19, in part because they are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill from the disease compared to non-pregnant people. Those who are attempting to conceive or are breastfeeding should also get their shots, it said.
Liberia has administered at least 113, 680 doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs 2 doses, that is enough to have vaccinated about 1.2 percent of the population.
The Liberian government is pushing hard to ensure that about 10 percent of the population is fully vaccinated by the end of September, Minister Jallah has said at a press conference recently.
The ten percent threshold is a target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that ten percent of every country’s population is vaccinated and we want to meet that.
“Liberia is making a difference in vaccination. The demand, for us, is here so we need to supply or visit communities, churches, schools, villages, and towns with the Vaccine in other to meet our quota by September 30, 2021," she said.
WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on May 24, 2021, called for all countries to vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations by September and at least 30 percent by the end of 2021.
He urged WHO member states should back the “massive push” to reach these COVID-19 vaccination goals.
The Liberian government’s goal is to inoculate up to 70% of the people living within the country’s territorial confines in order to achieve population protection, an official told this reporter. But whether Liberia will reach the 10 percent target with just ten days to go remains a huge dream.
This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) through the Mobilizing Media against COVID-19, in partnership with Frontpage Africa and Heritage Newspaper.