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Cameroon Health Workers Doubt Efficacy of Chinese COVID Vaccines

A Zimbabwe health official transfers donated Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine into a government truck, at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, Feb. 15, 2021. China donated 200,000 Sinopharm doses to Cameroon on April 11, 2021. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

Health care workers in Cameroon say they are reluctant to take the coronavirus vaccines donated by China because they doubt the drug's efficacy.

On Sunday, 200,000 Sinopharm doses arrived in Cameroon's capital. Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute accepted the vaccine donation on behalf of President Paul Biya at Yaounde's international airport, in a ceremony that was broadcast live on state radio and television.

However, the same day in Beijing, a Chinese official said Chinese vaccines provide low protection against the coronavirus and officials are looking for ways to boost the efficacy by mixing them, according to the Associated Press.

FILE - Empty vials of China's Sinopharm vaccine sit in a cup at a public hospital in Lima, Peru, Feb. 10, 2021.
FILE - Empty vials of China's Sinopharm vaccine sit in a cup at a public hospital in Lima, Peru, Feb. 10, 2021.

In Cameroon, some health care workers are skeptical the Sinopharm vaccine is effective.

"The government should have given more time for trials to be made to see if the side effects on Cameroonians are bearable or not," said Honorine Aza, a nurse at the Messassi government hospital in Yaounde. "What is the need rushing with a vaccine to Cameroon on Sunday and asking health workers to be vaccinated immediately? I prefer other preventive methods like washing of hands with soap and water, wearing face masks, social distancing and avoiding overcrowded places."

Clementine Ndjock, 34, is the leader of the Association of Female Traders in Douala. She says several local news organizations like Cameroon state broadcaster CRTV, Canal 2 and Star FM have reported cases outside Cameroon of potentially serious side effects after taking the vaccine. She wants Cameroon and China to prove that the vaccine is safe.

Cameroon Health Minister Manaouda Malachie was the first to get injected with the vaccine. He says the vaccine is safe and is encouraging everyone to get it voluntarily.

While he says he understands that some people are scared because of reports that fake vaccines were discovered in China, he stressed that the vaccines in Cameroon were taken directly from the factory making them in China. Malachie says although there may be side effects, there is no scientific evidence of a death being causally linked with the coronavirus vaccine.

On Monday, Cameroon's Medical Council said about 400 people — including 90 health workers — had received the Sinopharm vaccine.

The government had projected at least 1,000 to be vaccinated 24 hours after the doses arrived.