Amid Federal Government’s concern over many Nigerians’ reluctance to take the Covid-19 vaccine and its plan to impose sanctions on those who refuse the vaccine when it is made available to all, some states have said they do not intend to force anyone to take the vaccine.
The states, including Enugu, Taraba, Cross River, Ogun, Bauchi and Abia, said they would keep appealing to their residents to take the vaccine instead of adopting strict measures to compel them.
Bothered about the low vaccination level across the country and the deadly nature of the Delta variant that is now in the country, the Federal Government had said it was exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians and that it would not hesitate to “apply the basic rule of law” against people who refused the vaccine because they would be endangering the lives of others.
The Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, on August 31, said, “The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health are exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians, including federal civil servants and corporate entities.
“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, then we will need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy. If some individuals refuse to take the vaccine, hence endangering those who have or those who could not due to medical exemptions, then we have to apply the basic rule of law, which stipulates that your human right stops where mine begins.
“So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others.”
Meanwhile, the six states ruled out such measures, saying they would continue to appeal to their residents.
In Enugu State, the Commissioner for Information and spokesperson for the state Action Committee on Covid-19, Mr Chidi Aroh, told one of our correspondents in an interview that the state would respect the fundamental rights of every resident of the state.
He added, “I know that in Enugu State, we encourage people to take vaccine but rest assured that in encouraging people to take vaccine, Enugu is a state that is guided by the law. We are going to respect the fundamental rights of everybody as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“So, in all we do, we will be guided by the process of the law and the administration will do everything within the extant laws. However, we say that it is proper for people to go and get vaccinated but we will not do what is illegal to get people vaccinated.”
In Taraba State, the Commissioner for Health and Chairman of the state task force on COVID-19, Dr Innocent Vakkai, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Jalingo, the state capital, appealed to the residents to take the vaccine to prevent the spread of the virus.
Vakkai said, “Though Edo State has made vaccination cards compulsory for entry into public places, for us in Taraba, we are appealing to residents to come out and get vaccinated. We received 60,000 doses of Moderna vaccine last week and I want to appeal to residents to come out and get vaccinated to avoid the spread of the virus.”
In Cross River State, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu, said residents were already taking the vaccine, thus there would be no need to force them to take it.
Edu said, “We have asked people to take the vaccine and Cross Riverians are taking it. In the first phase, Cross River was the highest for covering the target population. We had over 117 per cent. We even exhausted our vaccine and could not get the vaccine to give people the second dose for eight weeks.
“So, there is no need to force them. As we speak now, over 60,000 Cross Riverians have taken the new vaccine brought to us and more are still taking it. In fact, we will soon exhaust what we have and we will need more. So, making it compulsory is not necessary.”
In Ogun State, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Tomi Coker, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, ruled out the option of barring persons who had not been vaccinated from its facilities.
Coker said, “Ogun State has experienced cooperation from residents who have engaged the vaccination campaign wholeheartedly. We are vaccinating over 7,000 individuals daily, so the situation in Ogun State does not require such restrictions.
“What I would like to encourage people to do is to wear their masks properly in public as this is still the most effective way of curtailing the spread of the virus while we continue the vaccination campaign which is planned to continue until the fourth quarter of next year.”
In Abia State, the Executive Director of the state Primary Healthcare Agency, Dr Chinagorom Adindu, said the residents of the state would take it as enlightenment campaign was ongoing.
He said, “At the moment, we have not considered that. Abians are highly literate and are willingly taking it. However, the state government has embarked on mass enlightenment to convince more residents to take the vaccine.”
Also, in Bauchi State, the Executive Chairman of the state Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Rilwan Mohammed, said the state had no plan to restrict people that had not been vaccinated from public facilities.
Mohammed, who is the Chairman of Contact and Surveillance Sub-Committee of the Task Force on COVID-19 in the state, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, said, “There is no plan on that; we have yet to discuss that at the committee level.
“My Chairman is the deputy governor and he has not said anything on that and we have not discussed it.”
Osun, Ebonyi back FG, Ondo plan enforcement
In Osun State, the Special Adviser to Governor Adegboyega Oyetola on Public Health, Dr ‘Siji Olamiju, said with the way the virus was spreading, those planning to take stringent measures over vaccination might be justified.
In Edo State, for example, the state government, led by Governor Godwin Obaseki, had mandated people of the state to take the vaccine; warning that as from September 15, anyone who had not been vaccinated would not be allowed into public places such as banks and worship centres.
Despite the ex parte order granted by the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt restraining the governor from enforcing his order mandating all residents of the state to get vaccinated, people without proof of vaccination were prevented from entering the state secretariat on Wednesday.
Olamiju, however, noted that residents of the state had been coming for vaccination.
Olamiju said, “COVID-19 has come to stay. We just have to devise means of living with it in a way that it will not mar our existence as a people.
“As we see some other states making some stringent means, it is worth it. This pandemic is spreading. Here, we are looking at our indices and we are analysing them. If our indices point at doing the same, Mr Governor will not hesitate to do anything that will safeguard the healthy living of the people.”
In Ebonyi State, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Daniel Umezuruike, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Abakaliki on Friday, said it had a plan to enforce compulsory vaccination but it won’t do so now because a good number of the population had not been vaccinated.
Umezuruike said, “Yes, we have that in mind but we have not started measures geared towards barring persons that are not vaccinated from entering government offices or public places. The reason is that over 50 per cent of the population has not been vaccinated and so there is no point doing that now.
“Enforcing such measures now may not be the best. But you can do such a thing when you are sure you have vaccinated up to 50 per cent of the population. It is at that point you can come up with such measures. We will do it, but we have not started. “
The Ondo State Government also said it would make vaccination compulsory as soon as the quantity of vaccine available was enough to go round.
The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, in an interview with one of our correspondents said the process of making the vaccination compulsory was ongoing.
He added, “It was a major issue and indeed the resolution at the last State Executive Council meeting. Aside from measures already being put in place for compliance by residents, the Head of Service was mandated by Council to drive the compulsory vaccination in the public service.”
COVID-19 deaths hit 2,647 as recovery rate drops by 70%
Meanwhile, information from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control says the country has recorded no fewer than 200,957 confirmed cases as of September 16, 2021.
Out of the figure, 189,346 have been treated and discharged while the nation has so far recorded 2,647 fatalities.
The NCDC also revealed that between August 31 and September 5, 2021, a total of 6,246 individuals were discharged but between September 6 and September 12, only 1,880 individuals recovered, signifying a significant drop of 69.9 per cent recovery in one week.
Despite the increasing number of cases since the presence of the Delta variant was announced in July 2021, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency which monitors vaccination in the country in its daily update stated that as of September 16, 2021, only 1.6 per cent of the population had been fully vaccinated with first and second doses.
According to the NPHCDA, 4,255,621 eligible citizens have been vaccinated with the first dose, which amounts to 3.8 per cent while only 1,745,663 have been fully vaccinated with both the first and second doses, representing 1.6 per cent of the population.
Experts and the World Health Organisation have expressed worries over the low rate of vaccination in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Over 3,500 passengers positive in six months
No fewer than 3,513 inbound and outbound passengers in the country tested positive for COVID-19 between March 8 and September 12, 2021, an update by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has revealed.
According to the update on the NCDC website, the 3,513 passengers comprised of 1,303 inbound passengers, 1,765 outbound passengers and 445 passengers not categorised as either inbound or outbound.
Within the period, the number of deaths recorded was 523.
Meanwhile, as of Friday afternoon, 2,942,578 samples have been tested in total, out of which 200,957 cases have been confirmed, 8,964 are still active, 189,346 persons have been discharged while 2,647 deaths have been recorded in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
The Federal Government had on March 23, 2020 suspended international flights in the country following the rise in the COVID-19 cases in the country. After about six months when the first wave of the virus began to decline, flights resumed on September 5, 2020.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, explained that all passengers coming into the country would have to undergo a COVID-19 test very close to their departure dates and that they would have to do another test eight days after arrival in the country.
According to the NCDC, between September 6 and 12, 2021, a total of 5,473 inbound travellers were tested, out of which 141 were positive and within the same week, 46 deaths were recorded. Also, between August 30 and September 5, 2021, 5,129 inbound international travellers were tested, out of which 149 tested positive and within the same week, 98 deaths were recorded.
Between August 23 and 29, 4,539 inbound travellers were tested, out of which 161 were positive. The number of deaths recorded in different parts of the country was 186.
The previous week, being August 16 to August 22, 4,590 inbound travellers were tested, out of which 195 were positive. The number of deaths recorded in different parts of the country was 49. From August 9 to August 15, 4,662 inbound travellers were tested, out of which 184 were positive and deaths recorded in some parts of the country was 32.
While 157 inbound passengers tested positive between August 2 and 8, the record for July 26 to August 1 was missing. However, from July 19 to 25, 2,836 inbound passengers were tested, out of which 74 were positive, while 107 positive cases were recorded when 4,398 inbound travellers were tested between July 12 to 18.
From July 5 to 11, 4,282 inbound passengers were tested, out of which 81 were positive; 14 passengers tested positive out of the 2,991 inbound travellers tested between June 28 and July 4. Also, between June 21 and 27, 2,872 inbound travellers were tested, out of which 23 tested positive.
Meanwhile, between March 8 and June 20, 2021, 445 inbound and outbound passengers tested positive, and within the period, 97 persons died of the virus.
Myth about vaccine discouraging people – UI committee chair
The Chairman, University of Ibadan COVID-19 Emergency Response Committee, Prof Victoria Adetunji, has said many Nigerians are afraid of taking COVID-19 vaccine because of the myth that the vaccines were produced to reduce human population.
Adetunji, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, said this on the sidelines of training and inauguration of UI Task Force Supervisors on COVID-19.
She said, “Many are not taking the vaccine because of the myth going around that COVID-19 vaccine is meant to kill people. Some are saying it is the mark of the devil, 666, but as a Christian, I know that rapture would have taken place before the devil’s mark would be given.
The Acting Vice Chancellor of UI, Prof Adebola Ekanola, said it was unfortunate that some people still did not believe that the virus was real.