From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government on Friday assured Muslim Scholars and Imams in the country that the the AstraZeneca-Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective by European Union and the World Health Organisation.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), and chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF), on COVID-19 pandemic, gave the assurance at the sensitization of Muslim Scholars and Imams on COVID-19 vaccination in Abuja.
The event was organized in collaboration with the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
According to him, despite reports of unusual blood clots in nearly 18 million people who have received at least one dose in Europe and the United Kingdom, it’s been certified safe.
Recall that European countries including Germany, France and Italy had paused giving the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine or banned the use of particular batches, pending the European Medicines Agency,(EMA) review.
Mustapha told the Imams and Islamic scholars that: “As leaders of Islamic faith and custodians of Islamic principles, we enjoin you to sensitize your people that the vaccine is safe and effective as confirmed by the European Union and the World Health Organisation”.
The SGF reiterated that the federal government would ensure that leaders at all levels take the vaccine to demonstrate to their followers that the vaccine is safe and effective.
He stressed further that Nigeria hopes to vaccinate about 70 percent of the citizens between 2021 and 2022.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, on his part, noted that the suspension of the AstraZeneca Vaccine by some countries does not disqualify the vaccine.
He stressed that the vaccine is what will help to protect lives.
“The side effects are not unusual. Every medication has side effects. But the positive effects of the vaccine outweighs the negative effects. With this vaccine, the reaction is not universal.” Ehanire said.
The Sultan of Sokoto and the President General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, His Eminence, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, urged the Islamic scholars to go back to their various constituencies and discuss the safety of the vaccine.
He called on all political office holders to continue to lead by example by taking the jab.
On his part, the Secretary General of the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, said there was no need for further delay.
“We have no choice, but to work assiduously, collectively and individually, with the entire Nigerian Ummah to confront and surmount the hurdles of hesitancy in Vaccine acceptance, the fear of reluctance, resistance or even outright rejection and opposition to the new vaccine by members of our dear Ummah.
“The train has metaphorically moved and we must get on board since we are all heading in the same direction, else we would lose the opportunity to maximize the benefit of the new COVID-19 Vaccine, and also lag behind others in taking the vaccine, with dire consequences for the Ummah of Rasulullah [S.A.W.] in Nigeria.
“Besides, if through negligence or procrastination, we do not make hays while the Sun shines, by letting the Ummah be amongst the very first people to benefit from the COVID-19 Vaccine, what belongs to us by right will be taken by others. We will miss much thereby and we will have none to blame but ourselves.
“We need to work together as Muslim umma to address the issue of vaccine hesitancy amongst our people,” Oloyede said.
In his remarks, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, NPHCDA, said that following investigations, the EU medical regulator, had announced that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and effective for use.
He encouraged the Islamic scholars to embrace the vaccine.
He also said that “the engagement provides opportunity to have honest conversation on the safety and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination and the role of Muslim leaders.”