REVEALED: What Nigerians Think Of COVID-19 Vaccines

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Here is all what Nigerians think of COVID-19 vaccines.

What Nigerians Think Of COVID-19 Vaccines

As the COVID-19 pandemic gradually settles into its second year, it has so far mutated into different variants and created different waves, presently exhibiting the Delta variant which is being tracked and monitored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which believes the variant is one with increased transmissibility, GRACE OBIKE writes.

All viruses naturally mutate over time in ways that help them survive and COVID-19 is not left out. Before the Delta variant, also known as the lineage B.1.617.2, Nigeria had previously identified the B I.I.7 which was first identified in the United Kingdom (UK) and B.I.525 variant strains which were equally initially identified in other countries including the UK, Denmark etc.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus said the Delta variant had, by August 1, been reported in132 countries including Nigeria. According to the WHO, infections have continued to rise in every region of the world, with some even reaching 80 per cent more in the past month. In Africa, deaths have increased by 80 per cent over the same period, Gebreyesus warned. The increase is being attributed to the highly transmittable Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, increased social mixing and mobility, the inconsistent use of public health and social measures, and inequitable vaccine use

On July 9, Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) Head of Communications Dr Yahya Disu announced the Delta variant had been detected in a traveller to Nigeria and four days later, 12 new infections were reported in Oyo state, Southwestern Nigeria, leading to two fatalities. Six states were placed on red alert following the detection of this new variant in the country

How far has Nigeria gone

Historical data accessed from the NCDC indicated that as of August 11 2021, 179,118 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the country since the first case was reported in March last year. Of this number, 10,783 cases were still hospitalized, 166,141 cases had been discharged and 2,194 people had died from the disease, while a total of 2,589,130 samples had been tested so far.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria took delivery of the first batch of 3.94 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, on the 2nd of March 2021. The country is expected to receive a total of 16 million doses over the next few months. Nigeria is the third African country, after Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire to receive the vaccines from the COVAX facility— a joint partnership between the WHO, the Center for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and UNICEF which aims to send vaccines to developing countries. Nigeria aims to inoculate 70% of its 200 million population by 2022.

The arrival of the vaccine triggered a surge in anti-vaccine misinformation which such as that perpetrated by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar asked the government not to compel Nigerians to take the vaccine.

Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello on March 6 went on live TV to insist he would not take the vaccine as he was healthy even as his colleagues from other states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) launched the exercise in their states by being vaccinated.

Religious leaders have also been at the forefront in spreading harmful misinformation against vaccines. Religious leaders such as General Overseer of the Living Faith Church International (Winners Chapel) Bishop David Oyedepo, the founder of Believers Love World aka Christ Embassy Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, have since March been campaigning against the vaccine urging their congregations not to take the vaccine but instead place their trust in God and use ‘anointing oil’ which they are ‘blessing’ and selling to gullible congregants under the pretext that the oil will protect them from getting sick.

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The Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kaduna state, the Rev Joseph Hayab has called out these religious leaders for misleading their congregations. He said religious leaders should educate themselves about the virus, the way it is spread, the benefits of the vaccines instead of misleading their congregations with half-truths about the virus and the vaccines.

The Rev Hayab said he had personally attended several training workshops where he interacted with health experts and he even consulted medical experts and doctors from his congregation and others who provided the information he has been using to urge his congregation to take precautions and to take the vaccines.

Hayab, who is a survivor of COVID-19, said: “Before COVID-19, many of us had received yellow fever vaccine. Have you ever seen Yellow Fever? Do you know what it looks like? We have received meningitis, tetanus vaccines. When it comes to medical science, let’s not bring stories that are primitive and selfish. I have seen instances where clerics deceive their people not to receive medications and they end up burying them, I am therefore appealing to religious leaders not to comment on things they are not experts of. Just leave it,” he says.

Quelling the level of hesitancy

Nigeria Health Watch has already debunked many of these claims and conspiracy theories in an article looking at the reasons for vaccine hesitancy which ranged from low literacy to distrust in the government.

A global survey found that respondents who trusted their government were more likely to accept a vaccine. Those who distrusted their governments were more likely to believe in alternative explanations for things that were happening.

“What we keep saying is that the government must know what it says to the people about COVID-19 because I think one of the major confusions is the way and manner the government presents the information. The government tells us to observe social distancing and reduce large crowds but when they have political activities, they meet in large crowds, so they make people ask questions of who is lying,” says Rev Hayab.

Dismissing the misleading information the former chief medical director of the University of Maiduguri teaching hospital, Prof. Idris Mohammed told off religious and political leaders in an interview with the Punch Newspaper: “Irrespective of your own belief or scientific knowledge or lack of it, you should act in such a way as to protect the people from infection. And if you say the infection does not occur at all, then, you are telling people to just relax and not take any measures to protect themselves, COVID is real, it exists and it is killing people.”

President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice President Yemi Osinbajo led government ministers, state governors and other state functionaries in taking the vaccine.

Public awareness campaigns are being carried out in the media as the government kicked off the vaccination beginning with the elderly and frontline workers including health workers and journalists.

By June 29 the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) Faisal Shuaib said approximately 88 per cent of the total COVID-19 vaccine stock in the country had been administered.

By July 13, 3,938,945 million doses of the vaccine had been administered, with 1,404,205 people fully vaccinated and 2,534,205 people received at least one dose of the vaccine. Of the vaccinated, the country recorded 14,550 cases of mild/moderate Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI), with 148 cases considered to be severe. AEFI can include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, diarrhoea, and pain at the injection site.

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Nigeria is expected to receive additional vaccines with 3,924,000 doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca being shipped into the country by the end of July or early August 2021. Another 3,930,910 doses of Pfizer-Bio-N Tech COVID-19 vaccine donated by the US government are due in August.

“About 3,577,860 doses of Pfizer-Bio-N Tech COVID-19 vaccine in Q3 in the coming months, 29,850,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson (Jassen) COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX facility by the end of September, that will arrive in batches from the African Union Commission,” Dr Shuaib says.

And just as promised, Nigeria on the 2nd of August 2021, received four million and eighty doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from the United States (US) government, with a promise of more to come.

How receptive are Nigerians?

A survey on the perceptions of Nigerians to COVID-19 vaccines conducted by the Africa Center for Disease Control released in February 2021 showed that 76% of Nigerians are willing to accept the vaccine, with younger respondents (24 and under) less keen to receive the vaccine than their older counterparts.

The demographics broken down is as follows: 77% of Nigerian men are willing to be vaccinated as opposed to 76% of women, 71% of Nigerians ages 18-24 are willing as opposed to 87% of respondents ages 55 and over. 88% of respondents who Know someone who has had COVID, would take the vaccine as opposed to 76% of respondents who do not or 80% of respondents who think the general vaccines are safe and 42% of respondents who do not believe in its safety.

The survey also revealed that 69% of Nigerians are more likely to trust radio for information on COVID-19, while 36% prefer social media. At the same time, 8% of respondents are less willing to trust government sources and 14% less willing to trust healthcare authorities. A breakdown of the response of 488 respondents on the government’s management of the resources provided for the outbreak: 368 of them rate it as poor, 82 rate average and just 38 feel it’s good about it.

Africa CDC” findings mirror those of a research conducted by global biosecurity titled, “Willingness to Participate in Testing, Contact Tracing, and Taking the COVID-19 Vaccine among Community Members in a Southwestern State in Nigeria.”

The survey had 691 respondents from different communities in Ondo state. Of the number, 244 were aged 21-29, 436 were willing to take the COVID-19 test, 458 were willing to disclose contacts’ names if tested positive, and 434 were willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Persons who earned less than 30,000 naira ($78.95) monthly were more likely to take the COVID-19 test than those who earned less. Those who were better educated ( 10-12 years of education) were three times more willing to disclose contacts if they tested positive for COVID-19. Those whose financial status had worsened due to the pandemic were three times less likely to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccines are not widely available to everyone and therefore the issue of vaccine hesitancy or willingness cannot be fully determined. In Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, Esther Bitrus said the council offered them the vaccine but she rejected it. “I am not saying that I don’t believe in COVID-19, I do. But to be honest, they just continue to talk of how people are getting sick from the virus but I don’t know of anyone that suffered from COVID-19. I think the government is using it to divert money and scare us enough so we don’t ask questions,” she says.

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Another survey that sought to get the perception of Nigerians to the vaccine and their willingness to accept the jab was conducted by the Nigeria Health Watch in Bauchi, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Lagos, Niger states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT). https://nigeriahealthwatch.com/will-you-take-the-covid-19-vaccine-a-household-survey-on-the-perception-of-nigerians-towards-a-covid-19-vaccine/

A total of 1,089 people participated in the survey with 730 respondents from urban areas and 359 from rural areas. Of those surveyed 85% had heard about the COVID-19 vaccine, over two-thirds were willing to take the vaccine while more than half 56% welcomed the vaccine and had no fears about the jab.

Reasons for vaccine hesitancy given by Some respondents said they will not take the vaccine because of what they have heard from others, and images and videos of adverse reactions on traditional and social media. Religious beliefs showed up strongly as a reason why respondents said they were unwilling to take the vaccine.”

People dismiss the possibility of taking the vaccine simply because they do not believe that the COVID-19 virus exists. Responses portrayed a general mistrust of public information as well as a desire to see before believing.

What government intends to do

To encourage people to take up the vaccine, Dr Shuaib said the government was going to enhance its public awareness campaigns and share more factual information about the benefits of taking the jab. ”It is increasingly evident that conspiracy theories and rumours are misleading people. We must not allow any information vacuum that mischief-makers would take advantage of to further mislead innocent people.”

The government was already putting in place logistical details for the storage, distribution, security, and accountability for the 41.2 million doses that it expects between now September.

The Federal Government has procured 60 units of U701 ultra cold chain equipment and deployed 37 of them to all the 36 States and FCT in readiness to receive the vaccines which are required to be stored in ultra-cold temperatures of below 40 to 85 degrees to maintain efficacy.

During a facility tour of the National Strategic Cold Store (NSCS), on the 2nd of August 2021, representative of the WHO country representative and Medical officer/ cluster leader, communicable and non-communicable diseases WHO, Dr. Anne Baptiste said the WHO is satisfied with Nigeria’s cold chain capacity and deployment plans.

Way forward

During the just-concluded world hepatitis day, several districts of the rotary club in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) organised campaigns in different communities to educate people on the disease and offered free tests and vaccines in places that would have been ignored. The action made a lot of people come out en-mass and partake in it.

If the same strategy is used with COVID-19, more people might take it more seriously, more Nigerians will be educated on the issue and just like Rev. Hayab said, if the government starts practising what they preach in terms of social distancing and all the protocols put in place to stop the spread of the virus, people might end up taking it more seriously and try to partake in stamping COVID-19 out of the country and continent, rather than seeing it as political than a reality.

This article was produced by the Africa Women’s Journalism Project (AWJP) in partnership with The ONE Campaign and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

What Nigerians Think Of COVID-19 Vaccines