[Opinion] World Day of the Sick: Building a Path of Healing for the Sick Amid COVID-19

[Opinion] World Day of the Sick: Building a Path of Healing for the Sick Amid COVID-19

By Damian Avevor

In his message for the 29th World Day of the Sick observed on February 11, 2021, Pope Francis has urged a path of healing grounded in a trusting and interpersonal relationship between the sick and those who care for them.

The Catholic Church marks the annual day on February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Instituted by Pope Saint John Paul II on May 13, 1992, the first World Day of the Sick was marked the following year.

The theme of this year’s observance is, “You have but one teacher and you are all brothers” (Mt 23:8), which calls for “a trust-based relationship to guide care for the sick”.

Pope Francis says that the annual day “is an opportunity to devote special attention to the sick and to those who provide them with assistance and care both in healthcare institutions and within families and communities.” He expresses his spiritual closeness and the Church’s loving concern for those suffering the coronavirus pandemic, especially the poor and the marginalized.

As the world marks the Day of the Sick, it is also being ravaged with the coronavirus pandemic which Ghana is of no exception as it awaits the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines.

As richer nations race ahead with mass immunization campaigns, Africa is scrambling to obtain supplies for its 1.3 billion people. Only a handful of African nations have begun giving doses.

The Writer, Damian Avevor

Like other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana is also battling a second wave of the novel coronavirus with its daily infection rate rising. In his Update No. 21 on COVID-19 situation in the country, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo indicated that Ghana is set to procure her first consignment of the COVID vaccines within the first half of this year and a lot of work has been done towards the realization of this.

Again, in his Update No. 23 on January 31, 2021, President Akufo-Addo stated that “through bilateral and multilateral means, we are hopeful that, by the end of June, a total of seventeen million, six hundred thousand (17.6 million) vaccine doses would have been procured for the Ghanaian people. The earliest vaccine will be in the country by March. Our aim is to vaccinate the entire population, with an initial target of twenty million people.”

With the assurance given by Ghana’s President that only vaccines that have been evaluated and declared as safe-for-use in Ghana will be administered, the multi-million-dollar questions are: What is the level of education on the COVID-19 vaccines yet-to-be procured? what is the acceptance level of this vaccines when procured? and why are we as a country not investing in local content?

Is Ghana really ready to adopt the COVID-19 vaccines? The Presidential Advisor on Health, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, reportedly said last year November that the country was indeed ready but only vaccines that have been tested in manufacturing jurisdictions and approved by global and regional vaccine approving bodies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the West African Health Organization (WAHO), and verified locally to be safe for use, would be adopted.

It is a known fact that there are anxieties among Ghanaians relating to the safety and efficacy of newly-developed vaccines but the government through its agencies has a mandate to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines to be deployed in the country are effective and are safe and well be accepted by Ghanaians.

I am happy the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) is very much positioned to use its established processes for granting emergency-use-authorization for each vaccine in Ghana. But as government puts together a team of experts to work out a programme for purchasing the vaccines now in use in some countries, there is the urgent need for a vigorous education of Ghanaians on the efficacy of the vaccines. Failure to do so, in my opinion will surely keep Ghanaians in doubt about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.

Furthermore, the National Information Technology Advisory Council, a technical committee responsible for the introduction and use of vaccines in the country, should earnestly start working closely with the Food and Drugs Authority to ensure that proper communication was done as well as ensure that only efficacious and safe vaccines were brought and used in the country.

In the interest of public health, the government, I strongly think, should be working around the clock to ensure that Ghanaians are not deprived of any globally approved and accepted vaccines.

As we await the vaccines into the country in March, there should be more importantly the risk communication aspect of vaccine introduction.

In relations to the investment in local content, health authorities must be charged to facilitate the local content in bridging the local vaccine needs. About 70% of Ghanaians are known to be dependent on herbal remedies for their health care.  Last year, some government hospitals began integrating the practitioners and training them to incorporate scientific methods into their work.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, some Ghanaian herbalists have given scientists and researchers herbal products and plants they think will help cure the coronavirus or at least alleviate symptoms.

I am of the conviction that with the intensification of education on the vaccines yet-to-be procured by government, Ghana is not going to be left behind in having access to the vaccines.

It is my prayer that the yet-to-be procured COVID-19 Vaccines and the local contents will bring healing to those infected with the pandemic which has exacerbated inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick, with the elderly, weak and vulnerable people not always granted access to care, or in an equitable manner.

On this 29th World Day of the Sick per its theme “You have but one teacher and you are all brothers” (Mt 23:8), it is my hope that caregivers particularly Chaplains of Christian Hospitals as well as pastors in Churches will help the sick discover the closeness of God in difficult times. Ghanaians indeed appreciate the good ministry they carry out in their facilities. Indeed, they (Chaplains) are the face of Jesus to many of the sick brothers and sisters and their relatives.

Caregivers, Health Workers, Chaplains and Pastors should endeavour to adopt a personalized approach to the sick, not just of curing but also of caring in view of integral human healing. It is not enough to seek to cure a sick person by providing the treatment needed...it is not enough to exhibit our professional competence.

As we mark the 29th World Day of the Sick, we need to critically look at what we can do to promote the healthcare that Christ wants so that those who pass through Christian facilities can feel their burdens lightened as they encounter our caregivers,” he declared.

In conclusion, caregivers in my view are also to strive to promote the dignity and life of people and reject any compromise in the direction of euthanasia, assisted suicide or suppression of life, even in the case of terminal illness.

When they are confronted with limitations and failures of medical science, what they need to remember is that life is sacred and belongs to God, hence it is inviolable and no one can claim the right to dispose of it freely.


Source: Damian Avevor//Newswatchgh.com