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SANWO-OLU FROWNS AT MISINFORMATION, CONSPIRACY THEORIES AGAINST COVID VACCINATION UPTAKE

…. As Lagos Hosts Southwest Town Hall Meeting on COVID Vaccination in Nigeria 

Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said that persisting rumours and conspiracy theories about the COVID vaccine have affected the uptake of vaccination in Nigeria.

Speaking at the South-West Edition of Town Hall Meeting on COVID vaccination in Nigeria, hosted by Lagos State Government and facilitated by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, in collaboration with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Sanwo-Olu averred that false and alarming conspiracy theories about the COVID vaccine abound, seeking to sow doubts in the minds of the people.

Represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mrs. Folashade Jaji, the Governor noted sadly, that many of the rumours and negative stories have gained ground amongst the populace with a significant effect on the vaccination campaign. 

He said, “Uncensored and unmonitored social media content is also helping to amplify these conspiracy theories and misinformation. These myths and rumours need to be aggressively dispelled in order not to jeopardise the efforts of all stakeholders, and to ensure the protection of the health and wellbeing of our citizens”. 

Sanwo-Olu, while noting that the African Continent is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of the availability of vaccines and the number of persons who have been vaccinated, stated that the widening gulf in vaccination coverage will have major global implications in the near future, if unchecked, stressing that the world must rally round to ensure that Africa is not left behind.

“Lagos State Government, in collaboration with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and other equally concerned stakeholders will continue to do everything possible to ensure that Nigerians are properly educated and sensitised on the need to take the vaccine, while also continuing to observe all the other guidelines and precautions”, the Governor stated.

He tasked everyone, especially stakeholders in the vaccination campaign including other South-West Governors, Royal Fathers, Development Partners and opinion leaders to keep sensitising citizens on the need to adhere to all precautions and guidelines that will bring the pandemic to a halt.

The Governor said, “As influential stakeholders, we must continue to reiterate the interventions introduced to curtail the community transmission of the COVID-19 infection through regular hand washing, wearing of face mask, physical distancing and refraining from non-essential travel”.

“We must get our neighbourhoods and communities to own the vaccination campaign and the entire fight against the Coronavirus. We can and must win this battle, and it starts with collaboration and partnership”, Sanwo-Olu said.

Speaking in the same vein, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, stated that demand for the vaccine in Lagos is very high, adding that he is not surprised Lagos is playing host to the Town Hall Meeting because of the need to build on the vaccine acceptance and address issues of vaccine hesitancy, particularly as some evidence suggests that Lagos State is going into a third wave.

While noting that Lagos is beginning to see increasing activities at public and accredited private laboratories over the last three months, which suggests that many more people are testing positive to COVID, Abayomi said the increasing numbers of COVID positive cases is inevitable in Lagos because of the cosmopolitan nature of the State.

His words: “We have had three months of peace, and you may think we have been resting but we have not, because it is during times of peace that we actually work harder and we have been anticipating the third wave because we watch the global environment, we watch what is going on in the continent and it is inevitable that Lagos will see some increasing activities because of the cosmopolitan nature of this megacity”.

The Commissioner noted that Lagos State testing capacity is close to 3000 daily, stressing that a lot of the COVID tests were done free of charge, adding that the State government will continue to make COVID treatment available and do all it can to win the war against the global pandemic.

“We will continue to make an adequate amount of oxygen available for those that need it and we will do everything in our power together with the Federal Government of Nigeria to make available COVID vaccines so that we will be able to meet the deadline line set by the WHO and other health institutions”, Abayomi said.

Also speaking at the event, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Primary Health Care Board, Dr. Ibrahim Mustapha said the town hall meeting is a public enlightenment programme geared towards calling the attention of citizens to the COVID vaccination exercise and its importance in the war against the global pandemic.

According to him, the COVID vaccine has been proven safe and effective against COVID infection because in climes where they have vaccinated a lot of people, those dying from COVID disease are persons that have not been vaccinated.

“In Lagos, Nigeria, the people that are admitted to be treated for COVID with severe illness are people that never received any vaccination, so it is a proven fact now that the COVID vaccine is safe and people should be encouraged to take it”, he said.  

While noting that the first phase of the vaccination exercise in Lagos and Nigeria has been concluded, Mustapha hinted that the next phase of the vaccination exercise is scheduled to commence in a few weeks when the Federal and State Governments receive the next consignments of vaccines.

Highlighting challenges encountered during the just concluded first phase of the vaccination exercise in Lagos, the Permanent Secretary disclosed that the issue of access, electronic platforms and improved service delivery even at the primary health care level would have been addressed going forward.  

Speaking in the same vein, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, explained that as plans and preparations for the second phase commence, ‘a whole family approach’ vaccination mechanism would be utilised.

He disclosed that the Federal Government, through the NPHCDA, has received communication for the delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-Bio-N Tech and Johnson & Johnson vaccine shipments in the coming months.

“We have received communication for the delivery of 3,924,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca by end of July or early August of 2021 from the COVAX facility; 4,000,080 doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in August from the COVAX facility donated by the United States Government; 3,577,860 doses of Pfizer-Bio-N Tech COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX facility and 29,850,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson (Jassen) COVID-19 vaccine by the end of September, that will arrive in batches from the African Union Commission”, Shuaib said.

Present at the event were representatives of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora; representative of the Director-General, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ikpeazu; Commissioners for Health from the other South-West States; the Oba of Lagos, HRM, Oba Rilwan Akiolu; WHO’s Country Representative, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo; Lagos White Cap Chiefs; Health workers; members of CDAs and CDCs; market women and men amongst others.

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