Indications emerged yesterday that the Federal Government is set to deploy influencers, including Imams, Bishops, musicians, sports personalities, as part of strategy to drive awareness and convince Nigerians on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, gave the indication while fielding questions from newsmen after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, where security, economy, vaccines management and the general outlook, for 2021 among others, formed the crux of discussions.
He said: “The more such people are seen taking the vaccines, the more the likelihood of resistance will break down in our various localities.”
Recall that the PTF had on Thursday said Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, and other prominent Nigerians would be among the first set to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on live television to help drive awareness.
Throwing more light on their discussions, Fayemi said: “For us as governors, the number one priority in vaccine management relates to public health and risk communication.
“I commended the PTF on COVID-19 for at least, wanting to use Mr. President and the Vice President as their publicity vehicles for reassuring those who may have their doubts about vaccines use that, this is no threats to them. You know there are cultural and religious concerns in various parts and we are at the state level, we are reviewing that with all of our colleagues.
“But the good thing is, Mr. President has agreed with me that he would convey to the PTF, the necessity of using other influencers, maybe Chief Imams, Bishops, top musicians, our sports personalities, because the more such people are seen taking the vaccines, the more the likelihood of resistance will break down in our various localities.
“Of course, procurement of vaccines was also discussed. Our view is that ultimately, we really need to ramp up manufacturing of vaccines locally. It’s okay that COVAX is going to be delivering some vaccines to us.”
As we understand, the first 100,000, and then 43 million and ultimately 165 million doses.
“But there is nothing as good as having the ability to manufacture our own vaccines locally. And we understand that there is a partnership with May & Baker, which is important for the Federal Government to really accelerate, so that we can produce the vaccines here in Nigeria and not be dependent on what is coming from other parts.”
On availability of funds, Fayemi said: “The federal government is already part of the WHO-GAVI Alliance-COVAX partnership and from what we understand from the PTF, vaccines will come from that alliance. Some of it from Pfizer in the first instance and then maybe from other various producers of the vaccines later.
“But there is no clarity yet as to when these vaccines will arrive Nigeria. So, one of the issues raised with Mr. President is the need to accelerate the delivery of vaccines to the country, so that it will be available to our people.
“Those of us at the receiving end in the states know that we also need to ramp up our own preparedness, in terms of getting our states ready for vaccines storage, particularly the freezers and cold chains that will be required for that process.
“We need to get ourselves ready at the state level. The federal government can procure, but we will receive and administer in our various states and there is a lot of work to be done in that respect.”
Asked if governors were disposed to take the vaccines on live television, Fayemi said: “Absolutely! We too will like to demonstrate to our citizens that we believe that vaccines would work. Don’t forget, we have a lot of experience on this.
“NGF managed the polio vaccines administration in the country and we have garnered a lot of experience. We have worked with the Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Federal Ministry of Health and will be happy to work with NCDC, PTF, etc on this as well. So, we would take a lead as well in our various states.”
On whether states would contribute in the purchase of the vaccines, he said: “The details of the financial management, of course, is something that would be of interest to all the states. But we also know that there are a range of approaches to take, including health approach, because for us at the NGF, it is not just a health issue, it is also a security and economic issue.”
On tackling the security situation in the country going forward, the NGF chairman said: “Obviously, you know I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of what Mr. President told me on security, but he said clearly that help is on the way.
“Mr. President is very determined that this year will see a rapid reduction in the free access that bandits, kidnappers and criminals have had in the country. I believe there is a whole range of strategies that he is putting in place in order to address that.
“I have also expressed to him the commitment of governors to step up to the plate, in terms of providing support for our security agencies, sensitising our population and addressing the root causes of some of these crimes in our states.
“It is a partnership. He is our commander-in-chief; we are his field commanders and insecurity is ravaging the land collectively. So, we all have to do whatever we can to reduce it and work in collaboration with the Federal Government.”