By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Stakeholders, mostly doctors and medical practitioners have raised concerns over the current deviation from what they described as the original COVID-19 vaccination plan designed after the arrival of the about 4 million Astrazeneca vaccine into Nigeria.
The stakeholders gave this indication recently during a webinar organized by Yiaga Africa to look at emerging issues and challenges in the cause of vaccine distribution, and to proffer solutions.
During the webinar on COVID-19 vaccine management in Nigeria, Chairman Nigeria Medical Association, National Committee on Infectious Diseases, Dr Sanusi Muhammed said the initial plan of vaccinating health workers, frontline workers, those with higher morbidity and mortality rate is not being followed at the ongoing vaccination of citizens across the country.
According to Dr Sanusi, “the idea of vaccinating frontline health workers is because they are at higher risks due to incessant contacts with patients. They have to be protected first, so that they can be confident to provide health care and services.
He said “we need to stick to the vaccination plan so that even if the vaccine doesn’t go round, those with higher risk, elderly and those with high morbidity and mortality are prevented from getting infected and that will reduce the burden of the disease and mortality.”
On the issue of misinformation and misconception raised in the policy brief released by Yiaga Africa, Dr Sanusi said, the misconception about COVID-19 vaccine is not only in Nigeria but all over the world with many countries stopping the vaccine based on rumors and non-scientific basis.
However, he said many countries have since backtracked on their earlier decision to suspend the process as they are now coming to join the bandwagon with over 50 million people being vaccinated across the world so far.
He called for the review of Nigeria’s health indices and the need for the government to declare a state of emergency in not just the security but the health sector, saying COVID-19 exposed health systems across the world.
He said “a lot of things have to be put in place. Issue of brain drain and issue of remuneration of health workers. Nigeria is one of the countries paying the least. Nigeria is paying less than 10 Dollars (5, 000 Naira) as health hazard allowances. This has been the case with previous diseases like Ebola, and Lassa fever, but COVID-19 has exposed this issue even more and shows that we need to do more in terms of manpower, infrastructure and also the basic lifesaving.”
He also urged the National Assembly to speed up the passage of the Infectious Diseases Bill saying, the legislation will enhance control over what is happening in the country. “You cannot allow political office holders to make ill-informed decisions with the lives of the people or masses of a state or LGA because of federalism or because he has the power to do so”, he said.
Echoing similar concerns, Dr. Henry Ewunonu, a medical health advocate and former National Chairman of Nigeria Medical Association’s (NMA) Health Advocacy Committee, who revealed that he had seen citizens who are neither health workers nor elderly, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during the first week of vaccination.
He urged the government to be transparent and accountable in a bid to increase private sector support saying, “Nigeria must not give the private sector reasons to back out or doubt if whatever they are doing is being appreciated”.
He decried the fact that he is yet to see a legislation, executive order or policy, prohibiting sharp practices in the course of administering COVID-19 vaccine to the population. He recommends strict punishment to any indiscipline personnel even as he recalls a reported sharp practice at the Falomo Police clinic in Lagos.
In her remark, the Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu said the conversation is important to ensure that the whole process of vaccination is guided by certain principles and every aspect of society is catered for.
She said, in the implementation of vaccines in Nigeria, “we need to deploy effective monitoring and evaluation systems that will help document how well we have done, document the learning and how we can improve on the system. She said, “beyond just the vaccination, there is a need to look at how to strengthen the health sector in Nigeria”.
Earlier during his presentation of Yiaga Africa policy brief on COVID-19 vaccine management in Nigeria, Yiaga Africa’s Director of Center of Legislative Engagement, Dr Ernest Ereke revealed that, the invention of vaccine is a pivotal moment in the global battle against the covid-19 pandemic.
He added that there is also concern that there is global challenge in the access to the vaccine.