From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to include Imams, Bishops, Musicians, Sports Personalities to the list of those that will take the vaccines on live TV, as part of strategy of convincing Nigerians that the vaccine is safe.
The Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum and Ekiti governor, Kayode Fayemi, made this disclosure to State House Correspondents after he met with President Buhari, where they reviewed a number of issues that are of interest to the governors, including security, economy, vaccines management and the general outlook for 2021.
The PTF had on Thursday said, that President Buhari, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and other prominent Nigerians, will be among the first set to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on live television to help drive awareness.
Fayemi, explaining what exactly the discussion on vaccines management was about said: “Well, for us as governors, the number one priority in vaccine management relates to public health and risk communication. I commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for at least, wanting to use Mr. President and the Vice President as their publicity vehicles for reassuring those who may have their doubts about vaccines use that, this is no threats to them. You know there are cultural and religious concerns in various parts and we are at the state level, we are reviewing that with all of our colleagues.
“But the good thing is, Mr. President has agreed with me that he would convey to the PTF the necessity of using other influencers, maybe the Chief Imams, the Bishops, top musicians, our sports personalities. Because, the more of such people are seen taking the vaccines the more the likelihood of resistance will break down in our various localities. So, we discussed that.
“Of course, procurement of vaccines we also discussed. Our view is that ultimately, we really need to ramp up manufacturing of vaccines locally. It’s okay that COVAX that Nigeria is part of is going to be delivering some vaccines to us. As we understand, the first 100,000 and then 43 million and ultimately 165 million doses. But, there is nothing as good as having the ability to manufacture our own vaccines locally. And we understand that there is a partnership with May & Baker, which is important for the Federal Government to really accelerate, so that we can produce the vaccines here in Nigeria and not be dependent on what is coming from other parts.”
Asked if acceleration in terms of availability of funds, the NGF chairman said: “Well, the federal government is already part of the WHO-GAVI Alliance-COVAX partnership and from what we understand from the PTF, vaccines will come from that alliance. Some of it from Pfizer in the first instance and then maybe from other various producers of the vaccines later. But there is no clarity yet as to when these vaccines will arrive Nigeria. So, one of the issues raised with Mr. President is the need to accelerate the delivery of vaccines to the country, so that it will be available to our people. Those of us at the receiving end in the states, know that this is an issue we also need to ramp up our own preparedness, in terms of getting our states ready for vaccines storage particularly, the freezers and cold chains that will be required for that process. We need to get ourselves ready at the state level. The federal government can procure but we will receive and administer in our various states and there is a lot of work to be done in that respect.”
Asked if governors will also take the vaccines on live television, Fayemi said: “Absolutely. We too will like to demonstrate to our citizens that we believe that vaccines would work. Don’t forget, we have a lot of experience on this. Governors forum managed the polio vaccines administration in the country and we have garnered a lot of experience. We have worked with the Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Federal Ministry of Health and will be happy to work with NCDC, PTF, the primary healthcare development agency on this as well. So, we would take a lead as well in our various states”
On if states would contribute financially to purchase the vaccines, he said: “Good question. The details of the financial management of course is something that would be of interest to all the states. But we also know that there are a range of approaches to take, the health approach is there. Because, for us at the Governors Forum it is not just a health issue, it is also a security issue and it is an economic issue too. We would work in partnership, we are involved with PTF, we have a representation at the PTF and we will work with them generally on them.”
On what to expect on tackling security situation in the country going forward after discussing with President Buhari, Fayemi said: “Obviously, you know I won’t go into the nitty gritty of what Mr. President told me on security. But, he said clearly that help is on the way. Mr. President is very determined that this year will see a rapid reduction in the free access that bandits, kidnappers, criminals have had in the country. I believe there is a whole range of strategies that he is putting in place in order to address that. I have also expressed to him the commitment of governors to step up to the plate, both in terms of providing support for our security agencies and also sensitizing our population as well as address the root causes of some of these crimes in our states.
“So, it’s a partnership. He is our commander in chief, we are his field commanders and insecurity is ravaging the land collectively. So we all have do do whatever we can to reduce it and to work in collaboration with the Federal Government.”