Mass Covid-19 vaccination programme begins
- Their Majesties, PM Majoro and other govt officials among the first to be vaccinated,
- premier expresses hope that vaccinations will enable Lesotho to return to normal life.
KING Letsie III and Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro received their vaccine jabs yesterday at Scott Hospital, Morija, as Lesotho kickstarted a national vaccination programme to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Also present to get the first vaccines were the King’s wife, Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso, their daughter, Princess Senate Seeiso, and several other government officials.
The roll-out of the vaccination programme followed last week’s delivery of the country’s first batch of 36 000 AstraZeneca vaccines from India. Dr Majoro said the vaccines were part of the 430 000 vaccines the country would ultimately receive as part of the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s COVAX facility.
The COVAX facility, a fully subsidised initiative by the WHO to enable poor countries to get free vaccines, has committed to donating vaccines to cover only 20 percent of the populations of each of the 92 countries in the facility. These countries, including Lesotho, will therefore have to purchase extra vaccines to cover the remainder of their populations.
Their Majesties, Princess Seeiso and His Majesty’s younger brother, Prince Bereng Seeiso, were the first to be vaccinated by the medical staff at Scott Hospital, the birthplace of King Letsie III.
They were followed by Dr Majoro, Health Minister Semano Sekatle and health workers from Scott Hospital and Kena Health Centre in Maseru.
Others who were also vaccinated were Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane; Army Commander Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela; Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli; Speaker of the National Assembly Sephiri Motanyane; Senate President Mamonaheng Mokitimi; leader of opposition in parliament Monyane Moleleki; his wife, Dr Malimpho Moleleki and the chairperson of the parliamentary Social Cluster Committee, Fako Moshoeshoe.
Scott Hospital nursing sister, Sebolelo Rantsie, said all those who had been vaccinated had to get a second dose of the same vaccine in 12 weeks’ time.
Sister Rantsie said the vaccine would not only boost immunity but also prevent deaths among patients. She however, said people should still observe public health protocols including regularly washing their hands with approved sanitisers, limiting their movements, wearing face masks in public and maintaining social distance from others.
Shortly after being vaccinated, everyone was advised to wait for 15 minutes in case they would experience side effects.
Sister Rantsie said likely side effects were a mild fever and fatigue. None of those vaccinated appeared to suffer any of those side effects.
Dr Majoro described the vaccination programme as “a momentous occasion and the beginning of a new era for Lesotho”.
He said the programme had given hope that the pandemic would soon be contained and the nation would gradually resume normal economic and other activities.
“We have suffered immensely in the past year,” Dr Majoro said.
“We are eager to resume our normal lives and we hope these 36 000 vaccines and another 132 000 we expect to get in the next few weeks will help us to achieve that.
“In the next few months, we expect to have vaccinated a large proportion of the population because that will slow down the rate of infections,” he said.
On his part, Minister Sekatle thanked His Majesty for accepting the prime minister’s invitation to launch the vaccination campaign.
He reassured the nation that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and highly effective in treating Covid-19.
“This vaccine has been proved to be effective by experts. We are guided by scientific findings and not by social media allegations.
“This vaccine is effective; it works and it is going to work. So, let us all get vaccinated to stop this deadly illness,” Mr Sekatle said.
His remarks were echoed by Prince Bereng Seeiso who warned the public against believing rumours that the vaccine was ineffective against the virus.
“Social media rumours are very dangerous and I only rely on factual findings. That is why I did not hesitate to be vaccinated along with the rest of the (royal) family.
“I therefore appeal to Basotho to accept this vaccine. After all, we were all vaccinated in our youth. Vaccinations boost our immunity. Some people may experience side effects but the vaccine is generally safe,” Prince Seeiso said.
Last week, Mr Sekatle and WHO representative in Lesotho, Richard Banda, said Basotho should not read too much into reports that the vaccine had been found to be ineffective against the South African variant also known as B.1.351 or 501.V2. They said South Africa had only released preliminary findings based on a study of the effectiveness of the vaccine in just a tiny fraction of that country’s estimated 58, 6 million population.