GOVERNORS of Nigeria’s 19 northern states have undertaken to be the first ones to receive the new Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available to help dispel any fears that it is not safe or is part of a plot to infect people.
Next month, Nigeria intends to take delivery of the first batch of the Pfizer vaccine and after that, there are plans to import the AstraZeneca/Oxford product through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. However, there are some people spreading rumours that the vaccine is dangerous and will be used to sterilise people, creating fear in some circles.
In the past, religious leaders across northern Nigeria have also told people not to participate in vaccination programmes because it is un-Islamic. To help dispel such fears, the Northern States Governor’s Forum (NSGF) has resolved that its members will be the first to take the vaccine, to prove that it is totally harmless.
Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, the NSGF chairman revealed the plan at a webinar organised by the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation (SABMF). At the event, the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine were also discussed.
Speaking on behalf of the governor, Professor Danladi Atu, the secretary to the Plateau State government, said: “We the northern governors have agreed to take the first doses of the vaccines.”
Abubakar Umar, the SABMF managing director, said the webinar, among others, was basically to sensitise the general public and provide answers to all the issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic and its vaccines. He added that a team of medical experts also gave their opinions about the Covid-19 vaccines, its efficacy and safety.
Dr Faisal Shu’aibu, the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said that the projection is that 70% of Nigerians will be vaccinated over the period of two years. He added that in the first phase, 40% of the population will be vaccinated while in the second phase, 39% of the population is expected to be vaccinated.
According to Dr Shu’aibu, in doing so, the risk communication strategies will be implemented across the different phases of the Covid-19 vaccine introduction. Pioneer epidemiologist, Professor Abdulsalam Nasidii, also spoke about the efficacy of the vaccines.
Dr Nasiru Sani Gwarzo an epidemiologist and the permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investments; Professor Zubairu Iliyasu, the director of the Centre for Infectious Diseases Bayero University Kano, Prof Sarki Abba Director Centre for Urologic Oncology Northwestern University Chicago USA and Dr Muhammed Adis, the executive secretary of the Nasarawa State Primary Health Care Development Agency among others, were also part of the occasion.
Professor Clara Ejembi, a lecturer from the Department of Community Medicine, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, said the vaccination does not prevent infection. He added that that the need for people to continue to practice preventive measures is important and all actors must be on board.