…. As Lagos Host South West Edition of Town Hall Meeting on COVID Vaccination in Nigeria
Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has said that persisting rumours and conspiracy theories about the COVID vaccine have affected the uptake of the vaccine in Nigeria despite the increasing demand of the vaccine in Lagos State.
Speaking at the South-West Edition of Town Hall Meeting on COVID Vaccination in Nigeria hosted by Lagos State Government and facilitated by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID19 in collaboration with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Sanwo-Olu averred that false and alarming conspiracy theories about the COVID vaccine abound, seeking to sow doubts in the minds of the people.
Represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mrs. Folashade Jaji, the Governor noted sadly, that many of the rumours and misinformation have gained ground amongst the populace with a significant effect on the popularity of the vaccination campaign.
He said: “Uncensored and unmonitored social media content is of course also helping to amplify these conspiracy theories and misinformation. These myths and rumours need to be aggressively dispelled in order not to jeopardize the efforts of all stakeholders, and to ensure the protection of the health and wellbeing of our citizens.
“We must never get tired of pointing out that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, with more than three billion doses administered worldwide, thus far, and close to one billion persons fully vaccinated. Nigeria did not record any case of death associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, of the almost four million Nigerians vaccinated so far”
Sanwo-Olu while noting that the African Continent is lagging behind the rest of the world, both in terms of the availability of vaccines and the number of persons who have been vaccinated, stated that the widening gulf in vaccination coverage will have major global implications in the near future, if unchecked, stressing that the world must rally around to ensure that Africa is not left behind.
“Lagos State Government in collaboration with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and other equally concerned stakeholders will continue to do everything possible to ensure that Nigerians are properly educated and sensitized on the need to take the vaccine, while also continuing to observe all the other guidelines and precautions”, the Governor stated.
He tasked everyone, especially stakeholders in the vaccination campaign including other South-West Governors, Royal Fathers, Development partners and opinion leaders to keep sensitizing citizens on the need to adhere to all precautions and guidelines that will bring the pandemic to a halt.
He said: “As influential stakeholders, we must continue to reiterate the interventions introduced to curtail the community transmission of the COVID19 infection; regular hand washing, wearing of face mask, physical distancing and refraining from non-essential travel.
“These must not be taken for granted in any way. We must stop this virus by all means possible, it is an opportunistic virus, depending on us as humans to spread it and give it room to develop into more deadly strains.
“I want to use this opportunity to call on our royal fathers, religious leaders and elders to please continue in their efforts to fill the gaps in terms of community knowledge on the benefit of the COVID19 vaccination, and also to help dispel false rumours about the vaccine”.
“We must get our neighborhoods and communities to own the vaccination campaign and the entire fight against the Corona virus. We can and must win this battle, and it starts with collaboration and partnership”, Sanwo-Olu said.
Speaking in the same vein, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi stated that demand for vaccine in Lagos is very high adding that he is not surprise Lagos is playing host to the Town Hall Meeting because of the need to build on the vaccine acceptance and address issues of vaccine hesitancy particularly as some evidence suggests that Lagos State is going into a third wave.
While noting that Lagos is beginning to see increasing activities at public and accredited private laboratories over the last three months which suggests that many more people are testing positive to COVID, Abayomi said the increasing numbers of COVID positive cases is inevitable in Lagos because of the cosmopolitan nature of the State.
He said: “We have had three months of peace, and you may think we have been resting but we have not, because it is during times of peace that we actually work harder and we have been anticipating a third wave because we watch the global environment, we watch what is going on the continent and it is inevitable that Lagos will see some increasing activities because of the cosmopolitan nature of this mega city.
“We receive visitors on a daily basis from all over the world and despite our very stringent guidelines and operating procedure at the airport we still see people who are positive coming in and our attempt to prevent them from infecting other members of the community is not always 100% .
“So if we are beginning to see the beginning of a third wave, we are not surprised that the request for vaccines has also increased. Members of cabinet, Mr. Governor and I receive daily calls on when the next batch of vaccines are coming in. I will like to reassure you that the demand for Lagos for vaccine is high none the less we still need to hit that high target of 60% vaccination hopefully before the end of this year or going into the beginning of next year if we are going to prevent these waves of new variants coming in to Lagos and trying to force us to shut down our economy.
“It is Mr. Governor’s determined resolution that Lagos will not shut down its economy again, and for us to do that, it is not just the government; the government will do everything in its power to reduce the opportunity for viruses to come in and create havoc, but it is also a civic responsibility of everybody and that is why we are asking everyone to follow the rules and regulations and be each other’s brother and sister keepers by maintaining social distancing, respiration and personal hygiene and if feeling unwell, get tested for COVID”.
The Commissioner noted that Lagos State testing capacity is close to three thousand daily stressing that a lot of the COVID tests were done free of charge. He added that the State government will continue to make COVID treatment available and do all it can to win the war against the global pandemic.
“We will continue to make adequate amount of oxygen available for those that need it and we will do everything in our power together with the Federal Government of Nigeria to make available COVID vaccines so that we will be able to meet the deadline line by set by the WHO and other health institutions”, Abayomi said.
Also speaking at the event, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Primary Health Care Board, Dr. Ibrahim Mustapha said the town hall meeting is a public enlightenment programme geared towards calling the attention of citizens to the COVID vaccination exercise and its importance in the war against the global pandemic.
He noted the idea behind the town hall meeting being hosted by Lagos is to call the attention of citizens to the fact that COVID vaccine is safe and that citizens should be receptive to taking the vaccine.
According to him, the COVID vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective against COVID infection because in climes where they have vaccinated a lot of people, the people that are dying from COVID disease are those that have not been vaccinated.
“In Lagos, Nigeria, the people that are admitted to be treated for COVID with severe illness are people that never receive any vaccination, so it is a proven fact now that COVID vaccine is safe and people should be encouraged to take it”, he said.
While noting that the first phase of the vaccination exercise in Lagos and Nigeria has been concluded, Mustapha hinted that the next phase of the vaccination exercise is scheduled to commence in a few weeks when the Federal and State Governments receive the next consignments of vaccines.
Highlighting challenges encountered during the just concluded first phase of the vaccination exercise in Lagos, the Permanent Secretary disclosed that the issue of access, electronic platforms and improved service delivery even at the primary health care level would have been addressed going forward.
He said: “One of the things we have discovered is that some people do not have access to the vaccine; talking about people who reside in hard-to-reach areas, also people who are in towns not many of them also have access because we have not so many centres, going forward we will be having more centres.
“The other thing is the electronic platform that our people used to pre-register before they got vaccinated, there were some little hitches with it but by the next phase this would have been addressed. We also concentrated a lot on having COVID vaccine at the primary health care centres (PHCs) and this affected some other services that are been rendered at the PHCs, by the next phase we will be looking at a scenario whereby the COVID vaccination would go along side other activities at the PHCs so that nothing suffers, after COVID, there are other diseases are meant to be taken care of.
Speaking in the same vein, the Executive Director, Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib explained that as plans and preparation for the second phase commences, ‘a whole family approach’ vaccination mechanism would be utilized.
He noted that this is because Nigeria is also plagued with other preventable and treatable diseases adding that NPHCDA and other stakeholders will use the opportunity of COVID-19 vaccination to integrate with other health systems.
He disclosed that the Federal Government through the NPHCDA has received communication for the delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-Bio-N Tech and Johnson & Johnson vaccine shipments in the coming months.
“We have received communication for the delivery of 3,924,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca by end of July or early August of 2021 from the COVAX facility; 4,000,080 doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in August from the COVAX facility donated by the United States Government; 3,577,860 doses of Pfizer-Bio-N Tech COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX facility and 29,850,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson (Jassen) COVID-19 vaccine by the end of September, that will arrive in batches from the African Union Commission”, Shuaib said.
Present at the event were representatives of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Mr. Boss Mustapha; Minister of State for Health; Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora; Representative of the Director General, NCDC; Dr. Chikwe Ikpeazu; Commissioners for Health from other South-West States; the Oba of Lagos, HRM, Oba Rilwan Akinolu; WHO’s Country Representative, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo; Lagos White Cap Chiefs; Health workers; Members of CDAs and CDCs; Market women and Men amongst others.