Gambian women’s voices on COVID-19 vaccines: “We are afraid”

Oct 13, 2021, 11:44 PM | Updated: Oct 14, 2021, 10:43 pm
This four pictures combo shows, from left, Lama Mballow, Anta Sambou, Lucy Jarju and Fatou Janha Mb...

This four pictures combo shows, from left, Lama Mballow, Anta Sambou, Lucy Jarju and Fatou Janha Mboob, photographed in Serrekunda and Bansang, Gambia. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

SERREKUNDA, Gambia (AP) — Oyster harvesting in Gambia is considered women’s work. It’s a grueling task — they paddle rickety boats, then get into water up to their necks to lay nets. Many of the women are the sole family breadwinners, and that burden has only intensified with the pandemic’s economic hardships.

Oysters bring income just two months a year — the rest of year, the nets catch crabs and small fish.

The TRY Oyster Women’s Association represents more than 500 women, many of whom are reluctant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. These women fish under darkness of night without fear but are anxious about the vaccine. They say they can’t miss a day of work if it means being sidelined — even briefly– because of side effects from the jab.

Here are their concerns, in their words.

___

OUMIE SAMBOU, 50, UNVACCINATED

Sambou’s husband is older and can no longer work. She alone makes money to feed their five children.

“Our life since the coronavirus arrived has been very difficult. No one had anything, and no one was able to work. If I do not wake up and go to work at the water, I will not have anything for my children.

“When COVID-19 broke out, we were told that no one should work. For us, if we sit at home without going to work, what do you expect us to give to feed our children? If your husband isn’t strong enough to work and you both sit at home, how will you survive this along with your children?

“I’m not convinced to accept the vaccine. My mind did not accept it; this is why I said I will not take the vaccine.”

___

FATOU JANHA MBOOB, 67, VACCINATED

Mboob, head of the TRY Oyster Women’s Association, tries to educate members and her staff about COVID-19.

“Every time we had a meeting … I would tell them about my friends and relatives who had died of COVID-19.

“I took (the vaccine) when it was being offered to the health workers who did not want to take it. So I went in. And then when I got it, I tried to convince my workers around me — my house helpers, my staff — to take it. It wasn’t easy for all of them. I mean, they just didn’t believe in taking that vaccine. So my condition was: You either take the vaccine or you cannot come to my house, to work, to the office. So through that, they took it reluctantly.”

___

LUCY JARJU, 53, UNVACCINATED

Jarju lost her husband a decade ago and is the sole provider for her family. Four of her seven children live at home, along with her daughter-in-law and three granddaughters.

“What if I get it and the vaccine does not work with my blood and brings me difficulties? I was told to go and take the vaccine, but I said that I was scared. If I take the vaccine and I can’t move again, what will I do?

“I can’t deny the fact that it exists; it does exist. I’m only scared about the vaccine. It’s my only concern. The way I hear people talking about it, that’s why I’m scared.”

___

MADELINE SAMBOU, 66, VACCINATED

Sambou, mother of three, was vaccinated after pressure from her grown children. Her peers haven’t been persuaded by her experience.

“When I took the vaccine, it did not cause any problems. I went, took it and came back and I was able to cook my food, do the laundry, and all my activities.

“People were saying: ‘You are definitely strong. The injection vaccine did not cause any problems for you, you are doing your work.'”

___

SABEL JATTA, 60, CONSIDERING VACCINATION

Jatta, is a widow and mother of seven.

“We don’t have a husband. The river is our husband.

“I’m not scared of the virus. I’m scared of the vaccine.

“The vaccine they are giving abroad is better than the one they give here. The one given here is not good.

“I have seen my children that have taken the vaccine. Now it’s only me that has not taken it … but I will go again.”

___

ROSE JATTA, 49, UNVACCINATED

Jatta suffers from chronic health issues but still goes out in search of food on the river daily. She fears the vaccine could make her sicker, leaving her two children without food.

“My kids only depend on me. Who will help my family if I cannot work?”

___

FATOU JATTA, 66, UNVACCINATED

Jatta, mother of three, has no plans to be vaccinated.

“We are afraid of the vaccine. Some people will take it and will have more problems in their bodies.

“I’m not taking it. My body can’t handle it.”

____

ANTA SAMBOU, 66, UNVACCINATED

Sambou, a mother of six, knows the virus exists but doesn’t want the jab.

“We pray for the virus to leave and go back where it comes from. The river, the river is what we have.”

___

This story is part of a yearlong series on how the pandemic is impacting women in Africa, most acutely in the least developed countries. AP’s series is funded by the European Journalism Centre’s European Development Journalism Grants program, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. AP is responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Fatou Janha Mboob, head of the TRY Oyster Women's Association, poses for the picture in her house in Serrekunda, Gambia, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. For Mboob, women need to be recognized. "The people must be healthy, you must empower them. Let them be able to be on the decision making table", says the 67-year-old mother of four children, who has worked to educate the association's members and her staff about COVID-19. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
            
              Lama Mballow poses for a picture in her house at the Sare Gibel village, in Bansang, Gambia, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. Sare Gibel, where the 24-year-old mother lives, is 5.5 kms (3 miles) away from the local hospital. Mballow, mother of one and pregnant with another child, has no plans to get vaccinated after giving birth. She says that in her village a lot of people are afraid of the vaccine. "I don't want to give a problem to my baby. Yes, that's why I'm afraid", says Mballow. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
            
              Rose Jatta poses for a picture at the oyster processing site in Serrekunda, Gambia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. The 49-year-old widow completely relies on the river to bring food to her home and pay for the school fees. Breadwinner of the family, she fears the vaccine against COVID-19 could make her ill, leaving her two children without food on the dinner table. "Who will help my family if I cannot work?" (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
            
              Madeline Sambou poses for a picture at the oyster processing site in Serrekunda, Gambia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. After relentless pressure from her grown children, the 66-year-old widow, mother of three, took the vaccine against COVID-19. People said that she was definitely strong because the injection didn't cause any problems for her. "God will give you good health, strength and will protect you from the virus", says faithful Sambou. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
            
              Oumie Sambou poses for a picture at the oyster processing site in Serrekunda, Gambia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. Like many other women, her life since the coronavirus arrived has been very difficult. Sambou is married with a much older husband who can no longer work, she says that if she does not wake up and go to work at the water, she will not have anything for her five children. "I'm not convinced to accept the vaccine. My mind did not accept it", says the 50-year-old mother. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
            
              Anta Sambou poses for a picture at the oyster processing site in Serrekunda, Gambia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. Things became different since the pandemic hit the country, but the 66-year-old widow didn't stop working on the river and for her that is what she has to support her six children. "We pray for the virus to leave and go back to where it comes from", says Sambou who is afraid to take the vaccine against COVID-19 (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
            
              Fatou Jatta poses for a picture at the oyster processing site in Serrekunda, Gambia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. The 66-year-old widow has seen only on TV that the COVID-19 is different from other diseases, but she is afraid of the vaccine. She considers that the injection will bring more problems to the body. "I'm not taking it. My body can't handle it", says the mother of 3 children who works in the mangrove of Gambia river harvesting oyster and other shellfish. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
            
              Sabel Jatta poses for a picture at the oyster processing site in Serrekunda, Gambia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. COVID-19 did not stop the 60-year-old woman from going to work. "I'm not scared of the virus, I'm scared of the vaccine", says the widow and mother of seven children. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
            
              Lucy Jarju poses for a picture at the oyster processing site in Serrekunda, Gambia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. Jarju says she is not willing to be vaccinated if it means she could miss even a day's work. Her husband died a decade ago, leaving her alone to provide for her seven children. She does not deny that COVID-19 exists but she is scared about the vaccine. "If my arm gets heavy and I can't go to the water, who will feed my children?" Said the 53-year-old woman who has been working for 15 years harvesting oyster and shellfish in the Gambia river. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
            
              This four pictures combo shows, from left, Lama Mballow, Anta Sambou, Lucy Jarju and Fatou Janha Mboob, photographed in Serrekunda and Bansang, Gambia. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

AP

FILE - Democracy advocate Jimmy Lai, center, leaves the Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal in Hong K...
Associated Press

Hong Kong jails pro-democracy media tycoon over fraud

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong court sentenced a pro-democracy media tycoon to five years and nine months in prison on Saturday over two fraud charges linked to lease violations, the latest of a series of cases against prominent activists that critics say are aimed at crushing dissent in the city. Jimmy Lai, who […]
1 day ago
A man holds an Argentinian flag prior to the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between the Nether...
Associated Press

Soccer writer Grant Wahl dies at World Cup match in Qatar

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Grant Wahl, one of the most well-known soccer writers in the United States, died early Saturday while covering the World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands. U.S. media seated near him said Wahl fell back in his seat in the media tribune at Lusail Iconic Stadium during extra time and […]
1 day ago
FILE - Oranges rot on the ground on Oct. 12, 2022, at Roy Petteway's Citrus and Cattle Farm after t...
Associated Press

USDA: Florida orange crop down 36% after twin hurricanes

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Production of oranges in Florida this season is forecast to be down 36% from earlier estimates, in part a reflection of twin hurricanes that battered growing regions, according to U.S. Agriculture Department figures released Friday. The latest forecast calls for about 18 million boxes of oranges to be produced in […]
1 day ago
FILE - A JetBlue Airbus A320 taxis to a gate on Oct. 26, 2016, after landing, as an American Airlin...
Associated Press

American, JetBlue expand deal that US is trying to kill

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are pushing ahead with an expansion of their partnership in the Northeast, even as a federal judge considers the government’s attempt to kill the deal. The airlines said Friday that American will add six new routes from New York City while dropping one. JetBlue will […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Uber rider fatally stabs New Orleans driver, authorities say

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans Police Department employee who was moonlighting as an Uber driver was stabbed to death by a passenger in what a sheriff said was a random act of deadly violence. Yolanda Dillion, 54, was a fiscal analyst with the police department, New Orleans police chief Shaun Ferguson said Friday. […]
1 day ago
FILE - People wait in front of a pharmacy to get a COVID-19 test in Paris, France, Sunday, Jan. 9, ...
Associated Press

France to make condoms free for anyone under 25, Macron says

PARIS (AP) — France will make condoms free in pharmacies for anyone up to age 25 in the new year, President Emmanuel Macron announced Friday. The move comes as the government says sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among young people, and as this year’s exceptional inflation is cutting especially deeply into the budgets […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Gambian women’s voices on COVID-19 vaccines: “We are afraid”