The Federal Government has appealed to Nigerians not to be hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it gets to Nigeria.
Dr Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency ( NPHCDA), made the appeal at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) briefing on COVID-19 on Thursday in Abuja.
Reports have it that Nigeria intends to get 42 million COVID-19 vaccines to cover one-fifth of its population through the global COVAX scheme.
The initial vaccines would come as part of Nigeria’s plan to inoculate 40 per cent of the population in 2021 and another 30 per cent in 2022, with 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arriving by the end of January 2021.
The COVAX scheme was set up to provide vaccines to poorer countries including Nigeria whose 200 million people and poor infrastructure posed a daunting challenge to medical officials rolling out the vaccinations.
According to Shuaib, President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo and other prominent Nigerians are willing to be among the first set of Nigerians to receive the vaccine on live television to help drive acceptance.
“This is in accordance with terms of the prioritisation of vaccines and strategic country leadership.
“These critical leaders and others would likely take the vaccine in the full glare of the public to demonstrate that this vaccine is safe.
“So, we have to make provisions for them.
“Even in developed countries, what we have seen is that apart from the prioritisation of health workers, you have to also identify with critical leaders that you don’t want to be wiped off by the virus.
“For example, in warfare, if you want to destroy your enemies, you look for specific leaders, captains, the generals; once you decapitate them, then the soldiers will become weak.
“So, as much as possible, you do not want to also leave your leaders vulnerable to COVID-19, it doesn’t mean you want to prioritise politicians, that is not correct,’’ he said.
Recall that the U.S President-elect, Joe Biden, in December 2020, received a COVID-19 vaccine on live television in a demonstration intended to encourage Americans to receive shots of their own when they could.
Also, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was vaccinated against the COVID-19 on live television on Saturday, becoming the first Israeli and one of the world’s leaders to be inoculated.
Shuaib also emphasised that health workers would be given priority to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it arrives in Nigeria because they are the ones in direct contact with cases in isolation units.
On herd or population immunity to COVID-19, the NPHCDA said it is better to rely on vaccines
Herd immunity, also known as population immunity refers to when most of a population is immune to an infectious disease; this provides indirect protection or herd immunity or protection to those who are not immune to the disease.
Shuaib said: “There is no shadow of a doubt, even from the different vaccines that we have used in the past, it is always better to use the vaccines.
“It will be approximately 10 years for you to be able to achieve herd immunity. So you can imagine how many people would have died if you have to rely on herd immunity.
“The Swiss tried herd immunity for a lot of people; herd immunity just doesn’t work.
“The Americans touched it and see what is happening in the U.S.
“Herd immunity is not the way to go. The evidence is there that when you use vaccines you are more likely to quickly attempt herd immunity to protect more people.
“So, I will like to reiterate that you must not give way to conspiracy theories.
“We must try to manage the information around the vaccines. Where people do not understand please reach out to those who are scientists and public health experts.
“All of us here are Nigerians who take the issue of the safety of Nigerians seriously,” he said.