“I interact with so many people in school, at the market and in public places every day. I took the vaccine keep me protected”, says Paul, a 27-year-old engineering student at University of Juba.
He said he heard many rumours from his classmates that the vaccine can cause infertility in men and women, and can lead to premature death. Paul got affected by these false information.
“I gave it a thought for days and came to a conclusion that the vaccines will not harm people. No country would kill its citizens. This thought motivated me to take my jab when the vaccination was brought to our campus”, he adds.
A total of 1,502 students, teaching and non-teaching staff, 620 of these women, were among the first batch who got vaccinated in University of Juba and Upper Nile University, both are located in capital city Juba and has combined 35,000 student population.
The vaccination in universities was in response to the communication issued by South Sudan’s Chair of the National Task Force on COVID-19, H.E. Vice President Hussein Abduelbagi Akol to increase COVID-19 vaccination and decrease severity and deaths in the country.
The communication emphasized on the mandatory testing and vaccination of people in both public and private institutions. Subsequently, the Undersecretary in the National Ministry of Health directed health partners supporting vaccination to prioritize conducting in institutions.
In line with the above directive, on January 31, 2021, World Vision’s CORE Group Polio Project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) heeded the call.
Through the project’s implementing partners Support for Peace and Education Development Programme (SPEDP) and Organization for people’s Empowerment and Needs (OPEN) the vaccinations were rolled out in the two universities.
My advice is to get vaccinated to protect your life which is precious to you and to protect others from dying. The vaccines are free and not dangerous like most of us thought.
Ida, another student, shares, “I have no worries about the vaccine. I feel protected with my jab. The COVID-19 is here to stay since it’s the third year we have been faced by the pandemic.” The 19-year-old student emphasized that taking the COVID-19 vaccine should be everyone’s priority.
She further shares, “Some students believe that there is no COVID-19 in South Sudan due to the hot weather. My advice is to get vaccinated to protect your life which is precious to you and to protect others from dying. The vaccines are free and not dangerous like most of us thought.”
James Dut, a 25-year-old medical student expressed his gratitude, saying, “I am happy that the vaccines were brought closer to us. It’s the first time in the campus. We also get answers to our questions clearing the misconceptions.”
“This is a great initiative, and continuous awareness should be carried out not only at universities and public places but also on other platforms like radio and social media. This will make people learn more about the vaccines and those who are not vaccinated will get motivated to take their jabs”, he adds.
Dr. Chan Deng, the COVID-19 Coordinator at the University of Juba said he does awareness sessions in classrooms and conference halls, and encourage the students to adhere to the preventive measures such as wearing of face masks, washing and sanitizing hands regularly, and most importantly, to get vaccinated.
“The university is happy with the initiative making vaccination mandatory. We are encouraging students and staff 18 years above to get their jabs to protect them, their families and friends from the deadly effect of the virus. There is a lot of vaccine hesitancy but we shall keep educating them about the vaccines and its importance”, shares Dr. Chan.
Dr. Rumbe Samuel, the Deputy Project Director, confirmed arrangements are underway in the other institutions within Juba City. “The project has mapped and contacted heads of the institutions and developed micro plans”, Dr. Samuel explains.
He added that the project has recruited and trained the vaccination teams to conduct the COVID-19 vaccination in these institutions. The requests for COVID-19 vaccines have also been submitted to the State Ministry of Health.
South Sudan has reported 16,820 cases of COVID-19 with 137 deaths as of 3 February 2022. Though the country introduced COVID-19 vaccination in April 2021 only 4.76% of the target population have been vaccinated as of 9 February 2022.
Story and photos by Jemima Tumalu, Communications Officer