By Youssouf Bah
On Wednesday, Guinea became the first West African country to begin its Covid-19 vaccination campaign. It started with a 60-dose pilot trial of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for a select group of government ministers.
Guinea has had 13,722 cases of coronavirus and 81 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. I encourage all Guineans to try this new vaccine,” said Hawa Béavogui, minister of social affairs.
Beds at Donka Hospital in Conakry are routinely full, as doctors who treated Ebola virus now treat Covid-19 patients. Health workers say the government needs to do more to combat the disease.
“In my opinion, our government doesn’t do enough to educate the public on coronavirus,” said Dr. Aissiatou Sow, a dentist who treats Covid patients in Conakry.
Low trust in government means that some Conakry residents don’t even believe the disease is real. “There’s no such thing as coronavirus or Covid-19. It doesn’t exist,” proclaimed Nafadima Sidibé, a food vendor. She said she would not take the Covid-19 vaccine. “How can you create a vaccine for a disease that doesn’t exist? Those are the ministers! We don’t want anyone here saying they will vaccinate us,” she said.
One of the reasons behind the low trust in government is President Alpha Condé’s repression of the political opposition. This year, Condé overturned the constitution to stay in power for a third term, despite outcry from politicians in Guinea and a few international bodies.
The main opposition party, led by Cellou Dalein Diallo, has not accepted the October 18th election results that proclaimed Alpha Condé the winner with nearly 60% of the vote. Opposition protests are routinely met with police violence.
Post-election violence has killed at least 12 people according to Human Rights Watch, and Diallo said that Conde had arrested up to 400 of his supporters.