ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast began sending mobile clinics on Monday to markets and other busy areas in its main city Abidjan in an effort to turbocharge the vaccination campaign against COVID-19.
After administering fewer than 800,000 doses since vaccinations began in March – enough for a single dose for just 3% of the population – Ivorian health authorities are now aiming to inoculate a million people in Abidjan over the next 10 days.
While acknowledging that will be a tall order, they hope to pick up the pace by targeting some of Abidjan’s most frequented places, especially its vast open-air markets where most of its 5 million residents shop for food and clothing.
At the market in the district of Adjame, which municipal officials say is visited by more than one million people a day, mostly female vendors and customers lined up to be vaccinated in an air-conditioned truck.
“We are very happy about the convenience of the vaccines. It suits everyone,” said Minigna Keita, who promotes cosmetic products at the market.
In the Treichville district, health workers roamed the market with megaphones, encouraging people to get vaccinated.
“This morning it was a little slow, but people have started to show up in large numbers after seeing that the first people vaccinated did not have any problems,” said Sylvie Sie, who coordinates vaccinations in the district.
Like many African countries, Ivory Coast has seen vaccinations get off to a slow start due to limited supplies as well as wariness or indifference toward the vaccines.
But officials say things are picking up thanks to better communication, including promotions at soccer matches.
Ivory Coast has received about a million doses of the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sinopharm vaccines to date, and the government says it expects to take delivery of 1.2 million more doses by mid-July.
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Aaron Ross and Giles Elgood)