To further drive acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, has called on political leaders to take the COVID-19 vaccines in public glare.
Mr Abubakar while speaking at a sensitisation programme on COVID-19 vaccine for Muslim scholars and imams in Nigeria, on Friday, said this will encourage other people to take the vaccines.
“We have seen the president take the vaccines publicly and we expect to see more political leaders take the vaccines openly.
“We believe all political leaders must take the COVID-19 vaccines first before the common man on the street because they are our leaders,” he said.
Nigeria has commenced COVID-19 vaccination of its citizens after receiving 3.94 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX facility in early March.
The rollout started with healthcare workers who are often at the risk of exposure to infections being the first responders to patients.
However, vaccine hesitancy is a major challenge that must be addressed if Nigeria is to have an effective vaccination campaign, public health experts told PREMIUM TIMES.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo received jabs of the vaccines on live television to encourage other Nigerians to accept it.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, while addressing journalists in Abuja in late January, said he and his colleagues will take the vaccines on live television, a promise some state governors are already fulfilling.
According to Mr Abubakar, some people are still in denial of the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic which has infected over 100 million people globally.
“Some people don’t believe in the vaccines, they don’t even believe COVID-19 exists,” he said.
He urged Islamic leaders to educate people in their various constituencies on the safety and importance of taking the COVID-19 vaccines.
He noted that religious leaders will play a very important role in people’s acceptance of the vaccines.
“We all know the roles you play as leaders, your voices are very strong and people listen to you, they also believe in you,” Mr Abubakar said.
In his remarks, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said it is important for leaders at all levels to take the COVID-19 vaccine as a way of encouraging other people.
He applauded the Islamic scholars for their support in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As leaders of Islamic faith and custodians of Islamic principles, we enjoin you to sensitize your people that the vaccine is safe and effective as confirmed by the European Union and the World Health Organisation,” Mr Mustapha said.
Nigerian Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said the suspension of the Oxford- AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine by some countries does not disqualify its use.
“Every medication has side effects but the positive effects of the vaccine outweigh the negative effects,” Mr Ehanire said. “With this vaccine, the reaction is not universal.”
He said the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Thursday declared the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective for use against the virus.
In his speech, the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Ishaq Oloyede, said there is a need for Muslims to work together to address the issue of vaccine hesitancy amongst the people.
“We have no choice, but to work assiduously, collectively and individually, with the entire Nigerian Ummah to confront and surmount the hurdles of hesitancy in vaccine acceptance, the fear of reluctance, resistance or even outright rejection and opposition to the new vaccine by members of our dear Ummah,” Mr Oloyede said.
“The train has metaphorically moved and we must get on board since we are all heading in the same direction, else we would lose the opportunity to maximize the benefit of the new COVID-19 Vaccine.”
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said the engagement provides an opportunity to have a honest conversation on the safety and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination and the role of Muslim leaders.
The programme was facilitated by the NPHCDA as part of efforts to ensure people accept the COVID-19 vaccines.
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