From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Federal Government has explained that taking COVID-19 vaccine is a choice and not a compulsory exercise, even though it’s expected that every Nigerian should get vaccinated against the dreaded COVID-19 virus.
The explanation, perhaps, was as a result of media reports that indicated that effective December 1st, 2021, federal civil servants would be expected to present their vaccine cards or risk unfriendly actions.
Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, told journalists at a press conference in Abuja, on Thursday, that the civil servants are not under obligation to take the vaccine but they must show negative COVID-19 PCR test.
He explained: “The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC), on Wednesday, announced interventions to, not only protect the most vulnerable people in our society, but to also ensure that the work place is safe for all citizens.
“Clearly, there is loss of productivity and its impact on socio-economic development when workers are unable to come to work on a regular, and consistent basis due to outbreaks of an infectious disease such as COVID-19.
“Following advice by public health experts, the PSC announced that all Federal Government employees should make a choice as to how they can contribute towards making the work environment COVID-19-free.
“The logical choice is between taking the vaccine and showing the evidence or presenting proof that one is COVID-19-free by showing a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior. This provision is applicable to all Federal Government institutions.
“The decision to release the advisory was not taken lightly. It is part of the PSC and Federal Ministry of Health’s mantra to always use scientific evidence to make decisions for the benefit of all Nigerians.”
On the question of availability of vaccines, he said that they have already done a comprehensive analysis and forecast of COVID-19 vaccines and it was confirmed that there’s enough vaccines to cover more than the population of Federal Government employees.
“Based on delivery forecasts from the COVAX facility and the African Union, Nigeria will have adequate vaccines to cover more that 50 per cent of eligible populations by the end of the first quarter of 2022. In order words, please do not worry about the availability of vaccines because we have the supply chain figured out already,” he said.
He also explained that NPHCDA has committed to ramp up COVID-19 vaccine uptake, and it has put in place plans for the establishment of mass vaccination sites across the country.
“The objective is to vaccinate a high volume of individuals through large sites such as federal institutions, shopping malls, religious centres, sporting events, conference centers, and markets etc. This will require strong collaboration between NPHCDA, State Governments, religious bodies, school authorities and governing bodies of malls and large sporting events.
“As we expand the vaccination sites, we encourage all eligible Nigerians to avail themselves for vaccination. We have commenced the process of decentralizing COVID-19 vaccination in Nigeria, to include private health care providers. This is to expand access and increase utilization of the vaccines which will not affect free vaccination policy.”
Meanwhile, the NPHCDA boss said they observed that some “unscrupulous” elements would want to get the card and not the jab. “We are working with relevant security agencies to make examples of these individuals who may wish to buy or sell the cards by naming and shaming them. We are also enhancing the security features of our vaccination cards in order to limit forgeries,” he said.