A former aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, has explained why he received a shot of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after running a spurious campaign against vaccines for almost a year.
Mr Fani-Kayode is among notable vaccine critics such as Kogi governor, Yahaya Bello, and former senator Dino Melaye who have used various media platforms to tell Nigerians not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Public condemnation of COVID-19 vaccines by such personalities, despite no scientific backing, has been linked to an increase in vaccine hesitancy, a situation health experts fear could scuttle Nigeria’s plan to vaccinate more than half of its population before the end of next year.
Mr Fani-Kayode began his campaign against vaccines as early as the trial period of COVID-19 vaccine.
On April 30, 2020, he took to Twitter to describe the COVID-19 vaccine as an “evil” that would “result in millions of deaths”.
In a subsequent tweet about one month later, the former minister accused the World Health Organization (WHO) and Billionaire philanthropist, Bill Gates, of planning to use Nigerians as “Guinea pigs” for a vaccine trial that will lead to deaths.
“WHO are set to begin Covid19 vaccine trials in our country. EVIL! Not only have our people been turned into Guinea pigs to test Gates’ killer vaccine but our leaders are also passing a law which will make the use of that evil vaccine compulsory. What a mess! I weep for Nigeria,” he had written.
On Monday however, the controversial politician took to his Twitter account to announce his vaccination with the AstraZeneca jab, drawing the criticism of many Nigerians who apparently had been following his campaign against vaccines.
Bowing to sound logic
Following the backlash, the former minister, who is on trial for corruption, on Tuesday, credited his decision to make a U-turn to sound logic and superior reasoning.
“Despite my initially strong reservations I bowed to sound logic and superior reasoning and took my Covid-19 vaccine today. This is thanks to my sister the distinguished Senator Grace Bent who convinced me to take it and who emphasised that we must set an example to others,” he wrote on Twitter.
“If anyone had told me that I would take this vaccine up until one month ago, I would have said ‘no way’. I am glad that I changed my mind…”, he said, recommending the AstraZeneca vaccines to hesitant Nigerians.
According to him, Astrazeneca is safe and has no connection with Bill Gates and his foundation.
“The COVID vaccines we are taking in Nigeria are not Bill Gates’ vaccines and neither are we being used as Guinea pigs. These ones are tried & tested, have already been approved & have been administered successfully throughout the world.
“There is a world of difference between what we are being given in Nigeria & the exploratory vaccines that @WHO had wanted to test Africans with which we spoke against & resisted last year.
“Most importantly Bill Gates & his foundation has no connection with Oxford Azrazeneca. I would not touch anything Bill Gates with a barge pole for obvious reasons. Mark it.”
COVAX arrangement, WHO and Bill Gates
Contrary to Mr Kayode’s claims, WHO and Bill Gates foundation are strong proponents of the COVAX arrangement through which Nigeria received almost four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines.
On March 3, the COVAX arrangement – a UN-backed effort that promises access to vaccines for up to 20 per cent of participating countries’ population – shipped 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to Nigeria.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and is working in partnership with UNICEF, the World Bank among others.
The Bill Gates Foundation is among the funders of this arrangement.
COVAX is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses of vaccines to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX facility participants.
Because it is cheap, easy to make, and store, the AstraZeneca vaccine is regarded as the most suitable for developing countries like Nigeria.
Nigeria has since vaccinated over 600,000 people, including Mr Fani-Kayode.
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