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Ayoade Emmanuel, a 40-year old farmer has been hearing about the COVID-19 vaccine for a long time. His house, located in a rural community in Ogun is a stone throw to the vaccination center in Emulu Itesi, yet he chooses not to allow himself and family to get vaccinated.
“Why should I take the COVID-19 vaccine? I can’t even take it because I know my family can’t contact COVID-19” he said
Emmanuel is one out of many Nigerians still doubting the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine despite the availability at various vaccination centers in the country.
Vaccine hesitancy is according to the World Health Organization (WHO) as delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context-specific, varying across time, place and vaccines.
WHO says vaccine hesitancy is influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.
To curtail the further spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria, COVID-19 vaccine was introduced just like it was in other countries.
Nigeria according to a data report by twentytendaily had within six months, between March and August, received a total of 9,916,320 doses of Covid-19 vaccines.
Four types of vaccine; Oxford-AstraZeneca, Mordena Vaccine, Johnson and Johnson and Covishield COVID-19 Vaccine were received.
A total of 5,338,640 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was given within the period; 4,000,080 Morderna doses; 177,600 doses of Johnson and Johnsons while 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccine was received.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) then said it plans to vaccinate 40% of its citizens against COVID-19 before the end of 2021, and 70% by the end of 2022.
So far due to challenges experienced in transporting vaccine owing to bad road network to hesitancy and shortage of the COVID-19 vaccine, as at November 3rd, statistics shows that only 5,727, 711 of the total eligible population targeted for vaccination have been reached with the first dose of the vaccine representing 5.1% proportion of Nigerians vaccinated out of 200m population.
Also, only 3,110, 249 of the total eligible population targeted for COVID-19 vaccination reached with the second dose. Representing 2.8%.
Despite the donations of vaccines made to Nigeria and the creation of vaccination sites, hesitancy and mistrust have however continued to thrive amongst Nigerians.
A study carried out by a research firm, SBM Intel, in all the 36 states and the FCT, shows that only 39.9 percent of Nigerians agree they will take the COVID-19 vaccine.
The survey, which was titled: “COVID in Nigeria – The second wave” and published in January, reviewed Nigerians’ perceptions about the existence of COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
While 35.9 per cent of the respondents said they will not take the vaccine, 24.1 per cent are unsure whether they will get vaccinated or not.
‘Why we’ve chosen not to get vaccinated’
“I am not ready to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Do I even look like someone who has the virus? Mohammed Salisu a trader queried
Salisu who resides in a rural community in Nigeria with his house not far to the health center where COVID-19 is being administered confirmed the vaccine was provided in the community but he believed COVID-19 does not exist and has refused to get vaccinated.
40-year old Monday Kuburat still harbours misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Kuburat, who still believes the vaccine is not effective, claimed she did not make any attempt to get the vaccine again since the first batch of vaccination was directed to older people and other priority groups.
“I thought it’s meant for older people and I’m not old. We don’t have COVID-19 here which is why a large number of people here are hesitant to collect the vaccine despite the fact that they brought it here for us”.
Also caught in the web of hesitancy is 80-years old Janet Abiodun, an old woman on the high priority on the vaccination list but due to fear of contacting the COVID-19, rumours and misinformation have refused to get vaccinated.
“Myself and some other old women in this community are running away from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. We fear that getting vaccinated might allow us contact the virus which we don’t have before.”she said
Meanwhile, Mariam Olanrewaju said she’s not ready to get vaccinated as a result of the various side effects she has heard about the vaccine.
“I wanted to get the vaccine until a friend told me the side effects are much worse after taking it. Since then I have not made any move to take the vaccine.”
Mixed reactions on compulsory vaccination
Amid the reluctance of many to take the COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria, the Federal Government in September said it is exploring ways to tackle hesitancy.
The Presidential Steering Committee, PSC, had said Nigerians, who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine won’t be allowed to put others at risk.
Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHCDA, Faisal Shuaib, disclosed at a briefing on vaccine hesitancy in Abuja, that the Federal Government would prevent eligible Nigerians from endangering others once the vaccines were available to everyone.
Afterwards, three Southern states in Nigeria, Edo, Ondo and Ogun following the federal government disclosure instructed residents in their states to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be banned from public places, while FG suggested it is considering restrictions to tackle vaccine hesitancy.
However, the move for compulsory vaccination has continued to generate mixed reactions. While some people applauded the idea, others were against it.
“Why do they even want us to take the vaccine compulsorily? It should be willingly and not forced on us, Ayoade Emmanuel said
Meanwhile Idris Adekunle said the move by some of the states to introduce compulsory vaccination is a good step to take.
“I think it’s a good step so that many people can take the vaccine and help prevent COVID-19” he said
Expert assures vaccine safety
Speaking, a public health parasitology and epidemiologist at the federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Prof. Sam-Wobo Olufemi noted that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for Nigerians to take.
Prof. Olufemi said those who continue to fuel rumour and disbelief against the COVID-19 vaccine do so out of ignorance and lack of knowledge.
He added that though there are mistrust towards also centres around the hasty production and distribution of the vaccine there is a need for people to understand the
Prof. Olufemi urged people to get vaccinated so as to complement the efforts of the government in ensuring herd immunity is achieved.
Speaking on compulsory vaccination, Prof. Olufemi said the move by the government is to make herd immunity be achieved.
” If you have a large number of people that are vaccinated you achieve what we called herd immunity and once you achieve herd immunity it helps to bring down the prevalence of any kind of disease and that is what the government wants to achieve by trying to make people take that vaccine compulsorily.
He also charged people to understand that the vaccines are real adding that there are no negative effects in taking the vaccines.
“So it is for people to understand that these vaccines are real. I have had my two doses without any slight symptom and I find out that I need to travel out of Nigeria. There is no way you can even do business internationally without not being fully vaccinated.
“That there are no negative effects. Some of the people who are promoting it won’t be doing it if there are negative effects.”
He said those who are preaching against the COVID-19 vaccine are not doing Nigeria the good.
“It is for people to take this vaccine and for us to leave our normal life. The same people who are against this same COVID-19 vaccine are beneficiaries of VGC,polio vaccine and all other vaccines of old. How many of them have died?”
He urged people to desist from harbouring negative thoughts and spreading rumours about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“People should keep away from these negative thoughts. It is done out of ignorance of people not understanding the key things about science and how science works. Some people who think they are knowledgeable allow some mundane people to also mislead them and you know we are more emotional and sentimental most times than face real.
Prof Olufemi also advised those who are yet to get the COVID-19 vaccine to do so adding that the vaccine is safe.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is good. If anybody before now has taken it and developed something. It is not as a result of COVID-19 vaccine. It could be as a result of other compounding factors that the person would have reacted overtime. So most times, if you have any compounding factor it is good for you to see your medic and on what other analgesic to take after taking the COVID-19 vaccine. But people should know that the COVID-19 vaccine production is safe and safe.”
Vaccination for community’s safety
A medical practitioner, Dr. Yemi Adeyemi said the only way to ensure a community is rid of COVID-19 is through vaccination.
Dr. Adeyemi noted that states in Nigeria are pushing for compulsory vaccination in order to achieve herd immunity.
“The reason why states are pushing for compulsory vaccination is for herd immunity which means that the immunity that comes from a COVID-19 vaccination where everyone in the community is vaccinated reduces to the bearest minimum any chance of getting that infection”.
She also stated that fear and misinformation has continued to make people hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to her, “the fear is driven by misinformation or lack of information altogether. You have so many people who get information about COVID-19 vaccine based on what has been sent to them on WhatsApp through broadcasts that have wrong information about side effects, conspiracy theories and all of that.
“Obviously when someone is feeding on this information they will be afraid to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Misinformation in the sense that when it comes to technical subjects like vaccines it’s so scientific in a way that the lay man might find it hard to understand important and key information wrapped up in science. And so this can lead people to be hesitant.”
Dr. Adeyemi said when people refuse to get vaccinated they’ll continue to put the lives of other people in the community at risk adding that when the majority of people in the community gets vaccinated it helps to reduce the spread of such infection.
She noted that the majority of side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine are minor, adding that very few people get to experience it.
“They are not expected to be life threatening side effects. Very few people get it. The side effects after about a few minutes definitely goes away. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 far outweighs the risk of getting it.”
Dr. Adeyemi called on the government to continue the fight against fake news and misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and allow access to vaccination centres where the COVID-19 is being administered.
She therefore urged those who are still hesitant not to get scared and get their COVID-19 vaccine.
“I have taken the COVID-19 vaccine and I am alive and well. Really it’s not as scary as you think, if you’re scared of needless it’s a very tiny one and before you know it and you count to ten it’s over and done with. If you have any complaint or worry please see a professional and let them address those worries that you have. Stop being hesitant and remember that it is better to prevent something than to be running around trying to find a solution or cure.”
“This OUTBREAK story was supported by Code for Africa’s WanaData program as part of the Data4COVID19 Africa Challenge hosted by l’Agence française de développement (AFD), Expertise France, and The GovLab”