Reported By Magnus Eze, Timothy Olanrewaju, Lawrence Enyoghasu, Bere Gyang, Seye Ojo, Noah Ebije, Sola Ojo, Laide Raheem, Stanley Uzoaru, Felix Ikem, John Adams, Femi Folaranmi, Tony John, Chijioke Agwu, Olanrewaju Lawal And Priscila Ediare
To take or not to take. That seems the question many Nigerians are asking themselves now, as the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the country. Many people are sharply divided over the safety or otherwise of the new COVID-19 vaccine delivered to the country early this week. While many have vowed never to go near a vaccination centre with the aim of getting inoculated against the coronavirus, some others asserted that they would be happy to get vaccinated. And there are those that have yet to make up their minds.
On Tuesday March 2, the Federal Government took delivery of 3.94 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine shipped into the country via the COVAX facility. The vaccination, it was learnt, would be in phases. Those to benefit from the first phase are health care workers, frontline workers, port of entry (air, land and seaports), military, COVID-19 rapid response team (RRT), laboratory network, policemen and other strategic workers.
Phase two would be those that are 50 years and above, as well as those with co-morbidities that are between 18 and 49 years. Phase three would involve those living in states with high disease burden, while Phase Four would cater to other eligible population, when more vaccines are available.
But even if the country were to take delivery of more than 200 million doses of the vaccine, which would have been enough to get every Nigerian vaccinated against COVID-19, many respondents from different states told Saturday Sun that they would vehemently resist vaccination. And the camp of those unwilling to take any inoculation against COVID-19 is not peopled by just unlettered Nigerians. Among those taking the vaccine’s much-touted efficacy with a pinch of salt are highly educated people, including university professors. For instance, Prof Jona Onuoha, Head of Political Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) was unequivocal in his rejection of the vaccine.
Hear him: “I will not take the vaccine, because bringing a vaccine from outside the country is suspicious under the present circumstances. We don’t know if it is to eliminate the black race or reduce our population as there are still doubts whether coronavirus exists. They should take the vaccine to NAFDAC and subject it to proper test before bringing it out for public consumption.”
Another academic, Dr. Ifeanyichukwu Abada, the immediate past chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the UNN also said he would not take the vaccine. He said the way the Federal Government had been going about the vaccination of a thing was suspicious.
“I will not take the vaccine,” he declared. “President Buhari should lead by example. If it is really true that the vaccine is safe, let him, his family and his cabinet members come out publicly and take it first.
Emeka Opara, a banker based in Owerri, Imo State, said he would not take any risk by rushing to take the vaccine immediately. He said he would rather exercise patience and let others take before he would decide whether or not he would be getting vaccinated. He said there were unanswered questions about the vaccine.
“Nobody knows the truth behind these rumours we hear every day about the vaccine. Even as an educated person, I can’t risk the vaccine except those from government come out publicly to lead the way,” Opara said.
Augustine Uchechi, a student, said she was strongly convinced that there was a secret plot by the governments to reduce the population of the world. “All these things we have been hearing could be true. I just have to be careful so that I won’t fall a victim. They should test it on animals first before asking us to take it.
“Again, asking people to fill forms online before being administered with the vaccine goes to show the authenticity of the claim that it’s a strategy by the government to force people to take the vaccine,” she said.
A human resource consultant and Director, Civil Liberty Organisation, Stave Daniel Aluko advocated that no Nigerian, not even President Muhammadu Buhari, should take the vaccine until it is thoroughly certified safe for human use. Aluko told Saturday Sun in Jos that as a lover of humanity, he would not allow himself or his family members to take the vaccine. “Definitely, my family members and I won’t take the vaccine for many reasons. There is still a lot of speculations over it and our NAFDAC has not done thorough work in terms of the functionality of the vaccine,” he said.
From the North, Abdulsalam Mohammed Kazeem President, Unified Nigerian Youth Forum, said he has no trust in the vaccine and so would not take it. “I have reservations like many Nigerians. Those seeking justice should not do injustice to others. We as citizens are not fully carried along and as such we have the feeling that the government is up to something. The government is trying to force the drugs on her citizens. It is not safe because we have seen many foreigners, including medical doctors asking too many unanswered questions on the subject matter.”
Uchechukwu Iteshi, who spoke with Saturday Sun in Abakaliki, said he was very suspicious of the vaccine. Isah Abubakar, President, Northern Youth Council of Nigeria, also queried the efficacy of the vaccine and its safety. “Nobody takes the things he doesn’t trust. We don’t trust the process. So how do you expect us to trust these vaccines? I will not take it and will not support my family and friends to take it.,” he said.
Gad Shamaki, a human rights activist, corroborated Aluko’s position. He said he would not take the vaccine and would prevent his family members from being vaccinated. “President Buhari, Minister of Health and members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 should take the lead before they administer the vaccine on Nigerians,” he said.
Patience Davou, a Nigerian, also said he would ensure the vaccine never gets near him or any of his family members. Ugochukwu Achinike, a film producer, gave reasons why he would reject the vaccine for himself and his family: “I gathered that the vaccine is a method of depopulating Africans and it has raised eyebrows for me,” he explained. A professional footballer, Omenma Ugwu, said he had no reason to take the vaccine, noting that most sportsmen that contract it recover quickly.
An architect, Mrs. Adaobi Uzoagu said the government officials should vaccinate themselves and their families first before thinking of Nigerians. Olusegun Kodaolu, a commercial driver in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, vowed not to take the vaccine. He said the pandemic was not that serious in Nigeria, explaining that the virus cannot survive under intense heat.
For Musibau Adelakun, taking the vaccine is negative. He argued that the pandemic in the country had been seriously politicised and exaggerated to attract funds which will be lavished on the Nigerian political elite. Mrs. Bola Adesola, a primary schoolteacher in Abeokuta, said she had no intention of taking the vaccine. In her opinion, people at the corridor of power should all be administered with the vaccine doses before they are given to ordinary Nigerians.
Laolu Olabode, a cinematographer told Saturday Sun: “I will not be taking the vaccine. I was not brought up in the way of the Western medical treatment. I was brought up with sanctified water from the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC). Mrs. Ngozi Ugwu, a trader at Ogige Main Market Nsukka, said she would not take the vaccine, insisting that asking people to register for it on the internet is unnecessary.
Mr Morris Alagoa, an environmental activist in Yenagoa, said he was not excited about the arrival of the vaccine. He expressed concern over its safety, noting that inoculation should be optional for Nigerians.
“We were informed that those who were identified as infected and taken to the restriction or treatment centres were given malaria drugs and most of them returned home. Malaria has been the most common sickness in our clime and since we have been suffering from it, why has there been no vaccine for malaria?\ This vaccine should be optional for individuals. That way Nigerians would be able to make choices whether to continue to wear face masks in public places or go for the vaccine. I have to be very sure it is safe, if I will accept it. Otherwise, I will continue with my facemasks. But I am not discouraging anyone from taking the vaccine.”
Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike said for government to win public perception, the political class should be the first to take the vaccines. The council chairman added that Federal Government should liaise with the United Nations and World Health Organisation WHO for more support, because the quantity of the drug was quite small compared to the country’s population.
A former governorship candidate in Rivers State, Mr. Emmanuel Nwabrije, also said officials of the federal government should take the vaccine first before other Nigerians can. He stated: “You know, based on the manipulation that has been on in the government of today, people are sceptical.” Similarly, a Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner, Mr. Festus Ogwuche, said the vaccines should be subjected to further scientific analysis to ascertain the safety. He also stated that the political class should take the first shots.
An Ado-Ekiti-based cleric, Pastor Victor Olulodun said: “I’m not ready to take the vaccine because I’m not sure of its safety. I don’t believe in it, because it has not been proven here in Nigeria. I don’t have confidence in it. The question we need to ask ourselves is this? Are we sure of the safety of the vaccine? Does the vaccine prevent the spread of the COVID-19? Has the vaccine been proven? All these and many more questions need to be answered. As for me, I don’t have confidence in the vaccine,”
He said top government officials should take the vaccine first before administering it to the masses. Mrs. Titilayo Oluwatuyi, a businesswoman in the state, also said she would not take the vaccine. “I have no confidence in the vaccine at all,” she said. “It is unfortunate that Nigeria is celebrating the arrival of a vaccine. What a shame! Nigeria has the human resources to do research and make our own vaccine. I hope this country is not cursed.”
Secretary General, Campaign for Democracy (CD) Comrade Abdullahi Jabi told Saturday Sun in Minna, Niger State that neither he nor his family members would take the vaccine until government officials had publicly taken theirs to show its safety. Mallam Nasir Mohammad in Birnin Kebbi said bringing the vaccine to Nigeria was a waste of resources. “How many people are dying? Nobody is dying. We don’t need it.”
A journalist in Maiduguri, Dauda Illiya, said even though he feels the vaccine is safe, he would only take it only if the authorities and members of their families take the lead. But there are Nigerians who insist that they would take the vaccine, which they insist is very safe. Dr Obinna Orjungene, a medical consultant in Birnin Kebbi, said he would take the vaccine once the opportunity arises. He said Nigerians should not be afraid, as the vaccine had been tested and experimented by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and certified for human usage. “It is better to be vaccinated than to allow people to be dying. As long as it would reduce the epidemic, we should allow ourselves to be vaccinated,” Obinna said.
Dr. Laz Eze said he would jump at an opportunity to take the vaccine. As a health worker, he disclosed that he has already registered online to take the vaccine. Mamman Aliyu, 53, a civil servant in Maiduguri said the vaccine is safe, noting that he would take his dose when the opportunity comes. Mohammed Salihu Danlami Speaker, Arewa Youth Assembly, said he would take the vaccine. “In fact, I have just registered for the COVID-19 vaccine @NPHCDANG’s website, Very simple! I have secured the date and time for the vaccination and I have done registration for most of my family members.
Yusuf Goje, a member of Concerned Civil Society, Kaduna, also vowed to take the vaccine. “Why won’t I take it? After all, if they want to hurt us there are several other ways to do that.”
On her own part, Islamiyat Fadipe, said she would gladly get vaccinated whenever it is ready. She lauded the federal government for ensuring that the vaccine is brought into the country. She cautioned that vulnerable Nigerians and frontline health workers should get vaccinated before well-to-do individuals and people in the government.
Mr. Francis Chukuwa Ndu, a barber in Yenagoa, said he is willing to take the vaccine once it is made available so that he can protect himself and his family. Ms Tarindogiyo Beimo Michael, a civil servant in Yenagoa, said while she is willing to take the vaccine, government officials should take the first shot so that people can know its effectiveness.
Akinade Olugbenga, a driver in Oyo State Civil Service said: “I will take the vaccine because it is to protect us against COVID-19. I will also allow my wife and children to take it. I have no fear because the Oyo State government will not approve that we take the vaccine if it will harm us.”
Ozioma Emmanuel in Abakaliki said there is nothing wrong with the vaccine as long as it is going to be effective. Ali Modu, a businessman in Maiduguri, said even though he was not sure of its safety, he would nevertheless take the vaccine once the elected leaders take theirs.
A Nigerian lecturer based in Uganda and former chairman, Labour Party, Kaduna State chapter, Dr. Bello Mohammed Magaji said Nigerians should accept the vaccine, noting that the scientific processes were followed in its production, But he said the number of doses procured by Nigeria is way too low.“Nigeria ought to negotiate and get a better deal for more of the doses. As I have earlier mentioned those with pre-existing health issues, the elderly and the frontline workers should be given a priority.”