FG Backs Edo, Ondo On Compulsory COVID-19 Vaccination

THE Federal Government yesterday commended the compulsory COVID-19 vaccination drive by the government of Edo and Ondo states.It revealed that because of the vaccination commitment of the governors, Edo and Ondo are part of the states with the highest vaccines utilisation and absorption across the country. It assured that it would continue to ensure the availability and access to vaccines across the country. Speaking during an interview on Channels Television, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, said: “Different countries are beginning to look at ways to make sure that they approach herd immunity so that they can begin to go back to their normal lives.

“What is happening in Edo State is a situation where the governor is showing leadership in terms of trying to fast-track the process of ensuring that the citizens of Edo begin to build up fast and stronger after the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a lot of emphasis on the issue of vaccination and showing cards as evidence of vaccination. I want to applaud the governor for mobilising the communities to get vaccinated.

“From the state, it was clear that presenting a vaccination card is a prerequisite to get into a government facility. Edo and Ondo states are the two states that are currently consuming in large numbers the vaccines. This means that if states provide the impetus and motivation for people to get vaccinated; people are not actually anti-vaccine but are just sitting on the fence. They just need to be nudged a little bit and then they will get the vaccine.

“We do need to ramp up our vaccination coverage so that we can now focus on getting our economy back together and then getting life back to normal. We do not at this point have the vaccines that will cater for everybody in the country, but we hope that by the end of December and the first quarter of 2022, we will get additional vaccines especially because we have procured the Johnson and Johnson vaccine which is a single-shot vaccine.
“It is laudable that the government is taking steps to make sure that we increase the vaccination coverage. Once you have the vaccination card, with guidance from countries such as France and the United States that have the vaccine mandate, you will not be required to take the test.

“At this point in time, there are global inequities in the supply of vaccines. It is not fair for countries to start mandating that people cannot arrive in their countries without vaccinations because we do not even have adequate vaccines, especially in low and middle-income countries. Further down the road when these vaccines are available, then it will be the prerogative of those countries to take that decision.

“In terms of what is happening in Edo, and what so many other states are considering, I am not qualified in terms of law to provide an interpretation of what the constitution says around where the rights of somebody ends and where the rights of others begin. This is why I have been very clear that at the Federal Ministry of Health, we are not mandating vaccination. What we are saying is that those conversations are going on, and we will have to look into it when we see that we have adequate vaccines. We cannot ask people to get the vaccines mandatorily when we do not have the vaccines to go around. Further down the road, those discussions will take place all over Nigeria.
“We are going to be having the debate about vaccinations especially when it pertains to where you draw the line. There are states that have lost a lot of money in terms of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. In Ondo and Edo States, what the governors are doing is not just instituting vaccine mandates.”

“We do not want to make vaccines mandatory. However, there are instances where for example the people are provided with information, and as a government, it is the social responsibility to also protect the people who are vulnerable.

“Those who insist on not getting vaccinated are making decisions which are inimical to the health of their colleagues and family members. It is the right of the government to provide clear directives in terms of how people that are vulnerable, such as the elderly, the sick, among us are protected. That is why the Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) has made it very clear that for Federal Government workers, you can take the option of either getting vaccinated and showing your vaccination card or on a weekly basis, you have to do the PCR test to show that you are negative. This for me is not making vaccines mandatory.

“All the government is trying to do is protect everybody; so that an innocent person doesn’t get sick because somebody else is being careless or he or she takes a decision not to take the vaccine. We are working with the Nigerian Governors Forum to make sure that it is a common understanding.

“We cannot implement the vaccine mandate unless and until we are sure that everybody has access to the vaccines. We are looking at ways to decentralise and liberalise vaccine access.”

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