We should all strive to benefit from the 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that Nigeria has so far secured from India, courtesy of the Covax Facility, which arrived on March 2. This is part of an overall 16 million doses planned to be delivered to Nigeria in batches.
Yesterday, I had my first jab of the AstraZeneca vaccine in one of the general hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It was easy; no crowd, no ceremony, no fuss and no pain. I had expected a huge crowd, as all persons of a certain age and with brains between their ears know that it is important for their survival that they take it as soon as possible. I assume all the conspiracy theories against COVID-19 vaccinations have been so discredited that everyone would be eager to have the jab. I asked how many people have had the jab in the FCT and the response was that by end of work on Wednesday, March 17, only 711 people have had it. This is shockingly low. This might be because residents of the capital city did not see their minister or minister of state take it on Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). Silly me, no Nigerian believes what ministers do or say, so that cannot be the reason. In Lagos, where their governor took the vaccine on TV, the State Government reported that 12,720 people got vaccinated within the first 48 hours, implying that people there do not want to die from COVID-19.
At the national level, 2.3 million Nigerians registered their preparedness to receive the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine jab within 48 hours of the registration of the easy to use e-portal at the beginning of March, signalling some enthusiasm. A survey of 1,100 Nigerians between October and November 2020 by the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 found that vaccine hesitancy was a high of 59 per cent in Nigeria. Reluctance is 64 per cent globally. Hesitancy, combined with a low trust environment, where only 24 per cent of Nigerians believe in government and trust overall is at 49 per cent (ThisDay, 18/3/2021) is the situation here. No vaccine in human history has had to contend with massive disinformation and conspiracy theories as that of COVID-19. The vaccine, we were told, would be designed (the stories were manufactured before the vaccines) to implant a chip to take over our genes and turn us into robots for Mr. Bill Gates, make Africans infertile, kill us through blood clots, ensure we serve the mission of the devil and hurry us to hell. Maybe it is a wonder that some people are ready to take the vaccine. Having carefully studied all the disinformation and found them to be false, be like me, take it when it is your turn.
We should all strive to benefit from the 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that Nigeria has so far secured from India, courtesy of the Covax Facility, which arrived on March 2. This is part of an overall 16 million doses planned to be delivered to Nigeria in batches. The PTF understood the public’s genuine scepticism about the new vaccine and their resistance and undertook the daunting task of reversing such perceptions many weeks before its arrival in the country. It has been messaging constantly to counter the negative perceptions of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, and to inform that it has no adverse effect on recipients. The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, which has direct responsibility for administering the vaccine has also been engaged in sensitisation and awareness programmes to correct negative perceptions. At the beginning of the second week of March, most States had received their doses. The plan is to ensure the vaccination of about 70 per cent of the population over the next two years, starting with health and frontline workers, and people over sixty years of age.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has responded swiftly to the matter, saying the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its possible risks. Yesterday, the European Medicines Agency gave its ruling that they have not found any link between the vaccine and blood clots, and that it is safe and effective.
It is worrying that nearly two weeks after the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, some States are yet to begin vaccination. These include Oyo, Yobe, Cross River and Kogi States. Some governors are also yet to publicly take the vaccine, in spite of the fact that at the March 4 Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) meeting, they all resolved to take the vaccine publicly on March 10 with their deputies and to roll out the vaccine immediately thereafter in their States. In keeping with his long-held position, the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, had said that he would not take the vaccine. In addition, he has been circulating videos disparaging the vaccine and trying to discourage people from taking it. Clearly, he has responsibility for the lives lost to COVID-19 in Kogi State, where he had refused to allow testing from the very beginning.
The timing of the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been rather unfortunate. An alarm has been raised by many countries about its possible dangers. Although largely unsubstantiated, the claims have created panic among those who have taken the vaccine and those hoping to do so. The countries allege that there were serious side effects observed, like blood clotting in some of those administered with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Although such side effects are yet to be proven or backed with official pharmacovigilance reports, all the same, the alarm raised by some European countries like Denmark and the Netherlands has led to the suspension of the deployment of the vaccine by some countries in Europe. The issue also sent fears and jitters to the spines of most people of the world, including those in Africa and Nigeria, where the AstraZeneca vaccine has just been introduced.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has responded swiftly to the matter, saying the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its possible risks. Yesterday, the European Medicines Agency gave its ruling that they have not found any link between the vaccine and blood clots, and that it is safe and effective. As of March 9, WHO said over 268 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered since the start of the pandemic, on the basis of data reported to it by national governments. In all these, it said no case of death has been found to have been caused by the COVID-19 vaccines till date. In Nigeria, Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, while receiving her vaccination in Abuja last week Thursday, explained that agency went through the requisite investigations as soon it got the dossier of the vaccine before it approved it to be administered on Nigerians for the prevention of COVID-19.
It is now clear that the suspensions were due to political considerations, rather than scientific ones. It is the British vaccine and that country needed to be punished. Europe, however, soon discovered it was cutting its nose to spite itself.
The drama over the vaccine was provoked by Germany, which suspended its use, and pressure mounted on other governments to do the same, lest public opinion punish them if they seemed incautious by comparison, and for the sake of a united European front. Germany’s decision set off a domino effect of defections from the vaccine, with a cascade of European countries joining the decision to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine, dealing a significant blow to Europe’s already shaky inoculation drive, despite a lack of clear evidence that the vaccine has caused any harm. It is now clear that the suspensions were due to political considerations, rather than scientific ones. It is the British vaccine and that country needed to be punished. Europe, however, soon discovered it was cutting its nose to spite itself. It has provoked a delay in its already late vaccination schedule and can no longer meet the goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of residents by September.
Let us not be as stupid as the Europeans, let us all take the vaccine to protect ourselves. Our President and Vice President have taken it, so let’s follow their good examples. I have done so.
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