The frenetic pace of activities at Omodigbo Primary Health Centre in Mushin, Lagos, has been unusual lately for a facility of its status. Every day beginning from Monday this week, all qualified persons, who have registered in the online portal created for the purpose, receive vaccine jabs in the busy facility, which make them inoculated against Coronavirus – a seamless exercise that can be concluded in a jiffy for every eligible person.
But administration of COVID-19 vaccine is not limited to the health facility in Mushin; it is an exercise that goes on simultaneously in all the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas in the state. In Lagos where 88 sites have been approved for people to receive their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine, it takes only a few minutes for every qualified and registered person to get vaccinated.
Since last Friday, when the state began its COVID-19 AtraZeneca vaccination programme, it has rekindled hopes in Nigeria’s epicentre of Coronavirus, as the global medical community believes that the mass vaccination exercise is a worthwhile project for governments to embark upon to enhance the immunity of citizens and protect their health.
The commencement of the vaccination programme, which started last Friday in three locations in the state – at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Yaba, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja, and Federal Medical Centre in Ebute Metta- has since spread to every part of the state.
After a media briefing on the official rollout, distribution and administration of the vaccine at IDH, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and members of his cabinet as well as some frontline healthcare workers also received their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine.
In the priority list, which details those qualified to be inoculated in the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, are medical personnel in the COVID-19 frontlines, police, military, judiciary, and port health officials. Also eligible to receive vaccine jabs in the first phase are citizens 50 years and above with comorbidities. By the time phase two begins, people aged 18 to 49 years and those with comorbidities will take their turn to get vaccinated; while phase three and four would include everyone interested in receiving the vaccine, especially in high burden local government areas of the state.
For now, pregnant women and children under 18 years are exempted from the vaccine, Prof Akin Abayomi, Commissioner for Health, said. He cited as reason the fact that pregnant women were not included in the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. He explained further that the vaccine has two doses, with the second dose taking up to 12 weeks apart from the first dose.
“After the first dose, you will have 60 per cent protection and up to 80 per cent after the second dose. Note that you might still contract COVID-19 after vaccination, but the level of severity might not be much after achieving this level of immunity,” he said.
He stressed that the risk of not taking the vaccine outweighs that of being inoculated, adding that it would assist the state and Nigeria achieve herd immunity. Abayomi appealed to citizens to submit themselves to be vaccinated when it gets to their turn as the vaccine remains a global responsibility to slow down the disruption of the virus.
“The vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks, and the communication from WHO and relevant government agencies gives us confidence to proceed with vaccination to prevent a third wave of the pandemic,” he said.
Speaking after flagging off the vaccination programme, Governor Sanwo-Olu, who also received the Astrazenca vaccine at IDH, urged Nigerians to disregard rumours and misinformation making the rounds about the vaccine.
“The Federal and Lagos State Governments have done due diligence to establish the vaccines efficacy and safety.” He, however, cautioned that vaccination is not the end of the pandemic and all citizens must continue to adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as hand hygiene, use of face mask and maintaining physical distancing if the pandemic is to be controlled.
The Commissioner commended the Federal Government for providing financial and technical assistance for the state, which helped the state to respond appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic in the last 12 months. According to the Commissioner for In formation and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, Lagos received 507,742 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from almost four million doses received by the Federal Government, saying it would help to boost the state’s COVID-19 response. While appealing to the media to continue to assist in disseminating information that would educate and promote the health and wellbeing of the citizens, he added that the vaccine roll-out is a landmark event that would halt the catastrophic effect of COVID-19.
Also, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and advised residents against hesitancy. Shuaib, represented by Mrs. Omar Oto, a director in the agency, assured residents of the availability of the vaccines as the Federal Government is poised to receive more vaccines in May.
The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo who witnessed the launch, also commended the state government and assured the public that the vaccine is safe.
“I congratulate Lagos for the landmark flag-off of the COVID-19 vaccine. The WHO looks forward to Lagos, the epicentre of the pandemic in Nigeria successfully rolling out the vaccine and as usual leading by example. WHO has endorsed the vaccine as safe and effective for emergency use.” Other partners at the vaccination flag-off included UNICEF, Rotary and Clinton Health Access Initiative, amongst others.
Currently, Lagos is the epicentre of COVID-19 pandemic having recorded 56,804 positive cases, with 55,695 discharged, while 422 people unfortunately have died. This first phase of COVID-19 vaccination targets frontline health workers, laboratory staff, covid-19 Rapid Response Team, the Police, and strategic leaders, among others. They all tasked the state government to replicate its pace-setting streak to deliver COVID-19 vaccine to eligible residents.