There may be vaccination apathy if… — Dr Casmir Ifeanyi
Vaccinate every Nigerian — Pharm Olugbenga Falabi
By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
Amid the euphoria of Nigeria receiving the first tranche of COVID-19 AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines from the COVAX Facility today, medical experts have called on the Federal government to ensure that Nigerians are not disenfranchised in the vaccination process.
A medical Laboratory Scientist/Public Health Analyst, Dr Casmir Ifeanyi, has warned that the country may experience vaccine apathy if the management of the COVID-19 fails to build enough confidence in people.
Ifeanyi, who urged the federal government to be prudent in the disbursement of the vaccine, said Nigerians should be wary of political challenges that will come with the vaccine distribution.
Acknowledging the efforts of the leadership of COVID-19 management in Nigeria for facilitating the arrival of the vaccine, he urged more commitment to cover 70 percent of the population to build enough immunity against the virus.
“I hereby urge the federal government to be prudent in the eventual disbursement of the vaccine so that we do not waste resources where we can get support.
“I also envisage that we are going to have a political challenge in which some states that are not participating in active surveillance, sampling, and testing will allege they are being sidelined, marginalised, and shortchanged.
Warning that the vaccine distribution should be according to reportable disease burden across the states, Ifeanyi said a scientific approach should be employed in the process.
“Let the vaccine go to where we have disease burden. That the vaccine is coming at no cost to Nigeria is commendable because the country has been in and out of recession consecutively, so if a low-income country is getting assistance, we should leverage on sourcing of vaccine that is coming at no cost.
“If our total health budget for 2021 is in the neighbourhood of N500 billion and we have, in the same budget, over 80 percent for procurement of vaccines, for a poor country like Nigeria, that is a misplaced priority particularly when we have countries willing to support.”
Calling on theNational Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, to activate its pharmacovigilance unit, he said it would help generate post-vaccination reactions. “If our pharmacovigilance is not optimal, we will not be able to track all manner of reactions that may come. The vaccination will also be an opportunity to generate indigenous literature about how Nigerians would react to this particular vaccine because of our genetic diversity. So expectedly, it is important that we keep a good record.”
To checkmate vaccine apathy, Ifeanyi charged NAFDAC and NPHCDA to commence full public education and enlightenment so as to facilitate maximum use of the hard-earned vaccine doses available to Nigeria.
“If anybody tells you that we will not have apathy regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, that person is not being sincere. There will be apathy because the entire COVID-19 response activities have not been very transparent. It has generated huge distrust, the managers of COVID-19 response are yet to lay to rest that huge distrust. COVID-19 Portal.
Raising alarm on the COVID-19 registration portal was opened by the NPHCDA, Ifeanyi said it was capable of destroying the vaccination process, describing it as an indication of failure from the beginning.
“NPHCDA has already put a big challenge in place for Nigerians that are desirous to access the COVID-19 vaccine, they have put out a notice that Nigerians should go and log to a web page and indicate interest online and queue online to be able to access the vaccine, that is an indication of failure from the beginning.
“My mother-in-law in the village is not literate and I can beat my chest that we have over 80 million illiterate Nigerians; we have close to 100 million Nigerians who do not have access to the internet, so all of them will wait or go to the cyber café or how will they access it.”
He insisted that the NPHCDA should use the procedure usually used delivery polio vaccination, adding that anything outside that was just to make Nigerians suffer.
Vaccinate every Nigerian — PSN
On his own part, the National Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Pharm. Olugbenga Falabi says the Federal government should follow the roll-out plans mapped out by the NPHCDA and that every Nigerian must be vaccinated.
“If it will be possible for the first time in our records, Nigerians should realise that everyone needs to be vaccinated. It is not a matter of I am a big man, or I am this or that because even your cook can give you COVID if he or she is not protected and even other domestic staff.
“The Governor of Lagos State has to go on isolation because one of his personnel tested positive. I am suggesting that therefore, we should go the way the primary healthcare agency has mapped out to roll out the vaccine.”
He stressed the need for government to create more awareness about the vaccines as well as put the correct information in the public space as well as educate Nigerians about the process of vaccination.
He said the portal was specifically to be able to track health workers and to be able to schedule how and when they want to be vaccinated.
“Don’t forget that Nigeria has always been among the countries that are running immunisation programmes and that means that we already have a plan. With or without cell phones, we have already had a platform in which we do what we need to do manually. But what is being done now is to leverage the electronic advantage that we now have, it is not as if the manual is not going to be used.
If you see the publication last week 100,000 vaccinators have just been trained and they have been relieved to now go and train others. The others are those who will be at the primary healthcare centres which are the areas and locations through the platform the vaccination has always been carried out in the country even before COVID-19. So COVID vaccine is just an additional vaccination into the primary healthcare vaccination programme.”