• Demands Buhari, political office holders be vaccinated publicly
• Don’t listen to conspiracy theorists, SGF tells CAN
• Powerful countries hijack vaccines, Ehanire cries out
• Minister says 297 deaths recorded in January
• You face jail, SGF reminds violators of protocols
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has demanded that planned COVID-19 vaccination should begin with President Muhammadu Buhari and other government officials. The demand came just as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, advised Christian leaders not to take COVID-19 conspiracy theorists seriously.
CAN also state the need for officials to be vaccinated publicly to encourage citizens on the validity of the vaccine.
The association made the demands on Wednesday as it commended the President for signing COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations Bill 2021.
CAN President, Rev Dr. Samson Ayokunle, spoke at a meeting organised by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) to sensitise Christian Religious leaders on COVID-19 vaccine in Abuja. He noted that there had been conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines and that the fears would be dispelled if officials take the vaccination first.
He said, “We have to do vaccination by example, all the people in authority must do their vaccination publicly under the watch of national television stations like Channels and AIT. Don’t do it in the secret, don’t go to Aso Rock and do it, we want to see you on Channels, AIT, it is after you have got your own that I will get it. When people see that we have done it like that, the fear factor will be removed and we will get that breakthrough we are looking for. A lot of publicity campaigns have to be done through the churches, mosques and markets before the introduction of the vaccine to disabuse the minds of our people and to make them accept the vaccines.”
He encouraged Christian leaders to obey all protocols and warned reckless confidence as being shown by some faith leaders, who dismissed the existence of the virus.
“If you love your congregation, this is the time to teach them restraint, that is the way of wisdom. If COVID-19 is a joke, why is it killing people in advanced nations where they have strong health infrastructure, Britain and America are under the siege of COVID-19.
He said: “The grace we enjoy is making us take things for granted, and the grace of God should not be taken for lasciviousness. Listen to experts and obey all they asked us to do.”
On the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations Bill 2021, Ayokunle said it is the way to go. He observed that his tour of Abuja revealed that most residents moved about without face masks and breached other protocols.
While commending the President for signing the law, he called for effective enforcement.
“Nigeria needs to fight this common enemy called COVID-19 through enforcement, enforce the law, especially in unorganised markets which poses the great potential of spreading the virus rapidly. Nigeria needs to fight this common enemy called COVID-19 through enforcement, especially in the unorganised markets, motor parks etc,” he added.
IN his address, the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha told the religious leaders that Nigeria, like the rest of the world, had been experiencing the more infectious second wave, which increased the number of COVID-19 related deaths from 1173 on November 29, 2020, to 1,578 on January 31, 2021, an increase of 34 per cent.
The SGF observed that global infections had exceeded 100 million while fatalities had crossed two million.
He noted that the arrival of vaccines has however given hope to humanity that a solution had been found, adding that this does not, however, mean that the NPIs will be discarded.
The SGF emphasized that nobody is safe around the world until everyone is vaccinated and this informed government’s decision to sensitise and seek the inputs of religious leaders on the strategy to be jointly adopted and the role they will play in carrying the message on vaccines to Christians.
He expressed worry that Nigeria is facing challenges of scepticism about the virus; lack of compliance with the NPIs, very low testing which limits detection; rising daily numbers occasioned by the second wave, disruption in socio-economic activities; an increasing number of deceased loved ones, friends and church members; and vaccine hesitancy across all strata.
Other challenges according to him are the dangers associated with those infected but were never detected.
He said: “While we continue to push the frontiers of compliance with the NPIs through all means, including collaboration with the sub-national entities, faith-based organisations, community engagement and through legal instruments such as the recently issued Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021, the role of the church in the escalation of the awareness on COVID-19, vaccines and minimisation of resistance and hesitancy to it, can never be overemphasised.
“As we interact over all these issues and challenges today, I urge us to be frank, innovative and adopt common objectives of collaboration and determination to overcome the pandemic by reaching out to all adherents of our faith on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. Every Christian should be an advocate for the vaccines.”
The Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, recalled that actions of faith leaders influenced people’s values, attitudes, behaviours, and actions in previous public health crises, including polio.
He said faith leaders play a crucial role in vaccine rollout as they work with communities, ensuring they are distributed fairly and fully accepted.
He noted that religious leaders are highly trusted by local communities, and can reach individuals and populations that are at risk of being left behind and can therefore complement the work of the Federal Government and global public health organisations.
“During this time, we look up to our religious leaders to share credible information and stand up against rumours, fake news, and the incitement of hate and advocate for the needs of vulnerable populations. The COVID-19 vaccine brings a palpable sense of hope for all Nigerians, whose lives have been torn apart by aftershocks from this dreadful pandemic.”
MEANWHILE, the Federal Government has called for global equity in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Minister of Health who made the call at the briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 yesterday in Abuja, noted that about 95 per cent of the vaccines manufactured so far globally had gone to only 10 powerful countries.
Ehanire observed that the scramble for vaccines had pitted some countries against others in Europe, as wealthy high-income countries had pre-paid to allocate vaccines to themselves.
The minister stated that Nigeria had been allocated over 41million doses by the AU’s African Vaccines Acquisition Task Team AVATT and could expect 15 of about 42 million doses from COVAX stressing that all together, it will give the country coverage for over 50 per cent of our target for 2021 if Nigeria can access all doses promised.
He said, “Those who have been keeping a strict eye on the vaccines scene and those who follow international news would have heard of the scramble for vaccines, which has pitted some countries against each other in Europe, as wealthy high-income countries have pre-paid to allocate vaccines to themselves. A spokesperson for the World Health Organisation estimated that 95 per cent of vaccines manufactured globally so far has gone to only 10 rich and powerful countries. We join the WHO is calling for global equity in the allocation of vaccines since COVID-19 is a threat to mankind and not only to any country alone. Besides, the Director General of the World Health Organisation has repeatedly stated that no country is safe till all countries are safe.”
The minister noted that the date of the first arrival of vaccines in Nigeria has kept changing because the decision lies with the manufacturer, who already has heavy commitments.
“According to the latest information I have, we have been advised to expect the first COVID-19 vaccines from Covax to arrive in Nigeria as from February. We shall continue to review plans to ensure smooth rollout in our country, a huge task in the hands of NPHCDA, who is better placed than any organisation, with the requisite institutional memory from polio eradication and routine immunisation, to deliver the vaccine to all areas of Nigeria.
He said the National Agency for Food & Drug Administration & Control NAFDAC is the approving agency for all vaccines that would be used in Nigeria and its approval is required and must be sought before importation.
The Chairman of PTF and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha noted that the processes for accessing and procuring vaccines for Nigerians had advanced and that government would continue to ensure it would be safe and effective for Nigerians when eventually procured.
Boss Mustapha recalled hat the President has authorized the extension of all measures
The SGF said: “We wish to draw the attention of all Nigerians to the fact that sanctions and punishments (including jail terms and fines) have been prescribed for violators of the provisions under the Regulations. All law enforcement agencies have been fully briefed and instructed to enforce the law within the appropriate limits.”
On his part, the Director-General of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, announced that Nigeria has started the use of rapid diagnostic kits and it has gone very well and wants to ensure that every hospital in the country, both private and public have the kits.