From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma has lent his voice to the ongoing debate on the COVID-19 vaccines, appealing that if Nigerians can trust other vaccines, including the polio vaccine, they should also trust and be ready to be vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the vaccines will prevent deaths.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Governor Uzodinma urged Nigerians to trust the World Health Organisation (WHO), experts and scientists on the COVID-19 vaccines.
‘What is wrong… if you can take vaccine for polio, malaria and other types of illnesses, why not this? Have you not seen that COVID is killing people, are you not seeing that those infected are suffering from respiratory problems to heart problems, catarrh and all sorts of ailments?… I watched the DG of NAFDAC a few days ago say that every vaccine coming into the country will be certified. I believe in the capacity of NAFDAC to confirm for us what we can consume and not consume. So, it is not for us politicians to decide whether vaccines will be injected on our people or not. I think we should allow institutions to do their jobs,’ the Imo governor said.
The governor also expressed concern over the rise in the number of people in Imo testing positive for and dying from the virus.
He said to flatten the curve, his administration has introduced sanctions for people refusing to adhere to the Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions which include the wearing of face masks in compliance with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) protocols on COVID-19.
The governor said that community leaders in the state have already started engaging town criers in sensitising the people on the need to comply with the COVID-19 protocols.
‘The number of people testing positive and dying is on the increase, state government alone cannot as a matter of honesty summon the capacity and resources to address this menace. So, we also pleaded and Mr President has promised that he will intervene,’ he said.
On what he wants from the President, Governor Uzodinma said: ‘We need medical support, we need equipment, we need oxygen, we need well-equipped isolation centres, we need to test more and also when people test positive, we need to have the resources, the medication to ensure that the thing is remedied.’
On what his administration is doing to sensitise the people of the state on the dangers of COVID-19, the governor said: ‘Three months ago, we commissioned a risk communication centre in Owerri for the purposes of creating awareness and getting our people to know the danger inherent in being careless and contacting this pandemic.
‘We have gone further; we did a summit with all the traditional rulers and, as I speak to you, in Imo State, all the community leaders have engaged town criers.’
According to him, the state has set up a task force on COVID-19 and measures are being taken to reduce the spread of the disease and ensure the safety of all citizens.
‘A few days ago I issued an Executive Order to make not wearing mask a crime in Imo State. So, any moment from now, we will begin to arrest people refusing to wear masks, I have given a fourteen-day ultimatum for all coming into Imo State to wear their face masks and comply with NCDC protocol or be arrested and tried,’ the governor explained.
‘I have created six mobile courts to handle that. We don’t joke. It is better we offend people than to allow this disease to continue to spread in Imo State.
‘I have in place a task force on COVID-19 chaired by Prof Maurice Iwu, the former Chairman of INEC, and they have done well. We have in place four isolation centres, fully equipped and the government partnering with the private sector has also equipped an additional isolation centre at the University Teaching Hospital, Orlu.
‘But the number [of new infections] is growing daily and those testing positive are also on the increase; so I think we need to prepare more grounds, build more isolation centres, get more medications, get oxygen and also try to have respiratory support equipment for those who have difficulty in breathing after they have been infected.’
The governor expressed frustration that some Imo natives are being stubborn in regards to compliance with non-pharmaceutical protocols, informing his introducing sanctions.
‘The only effective cure we have seen now is when you are able to test and it is detected early and you take steps to change your hygiene system and comply with the protocols,’ he said.
‘It’s not easy honestly because, knowing the attitude of our people, they are so stubborn, you continue to plead with them to see reason with you because you can only be stubborn if you are alive; we’ve seen how people are dying every day, everywhere, even in Imo State, because of this ugly monster called COVID-19.
‘So, our people are invited through this medium to please respect and comply with NCDC protocols for this COVID-19 so that at least we will be alive.
‘If life is supposed to be paid for, many of us will not be able to pay the price, but God gave it to us freely so we should do our best in appreciation, to also understand the value of life and help the government to also help our people.’