By Chika Abanobi
Date was Tuesday, August 31, 2021. That was the day the reporter visited Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, one of the 150 centres for the administration of the anti-COVID-19 vaccination. He was there to see how the exercise was going on.
The MRC Building known as “Glass House,” and belonging to the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) was the structure being used for that purpose. A two-storey architectural masterpiece, equipped with modern facilities including marbled floors, brand new air conditioners, fans, floodlights, spanking clean environment, airy anterooms, fully equipped hospital wards, it is sandwiched between the Faculty of Clinical Sciences and Clinical Skills Laboratory. To access the place, you go through the thoroughfare located between John Oladapo Obafunwa Administrative Building and LASU Administrative Department, behind the LASUTH Theatre Complex.
The increase in the number of centres from the original 88 to 150, Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said, is to prevent the gathering of large crowds and ensure that “the vaccination campaign does not itself become a super-spreader event, especially given the fact that the new wave of the pandemic is a very virulent one.”
Overwhelming crowd and alleged shortage of vaccine doses
But the crowd that this reporter met at LASUTH on the day of his visit did nothing to instil confidence in one that something was being done to implement the policy. One of the health officials who did not want her name mentioned argued that the choice as to where one goes to obtain the vaccine is of an individual making, and has nothing to do with the governor. “If people choose to go to a crowded centre when there are other centres where officials wait from morning to night to attend to clients but see no one coming, you can’t blame the governor for the development.”
The second surprise: contrary to reports about 4, 080,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine being donated to Nigeria by the U.S. government, you found the doses being rationed. Whereas people came there based on their approved day of vaccination from the online registration, the crowd was so much that they were made to take numbers 1-40. If, for any reason, you were not one of the lucky 40, you were asked to come back another day, or go and re-register. Many of the vaccine seekers found this directive offensive as they considered it to be a tall order. “We have limited number of vaccines,” one of the nurses announced while pleading for the understanding of the disappointed crowd. “In fact, we have only 40 doses for each session. The rest of you can go and come back another day.”
Someone asked when. The nurse, whose nametag was turned facedown, replied: “Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe tomorrow. You see, some of the people that are being attended to today, were originally booked for yesterday. But because we couldn’t finish attending to them, they were asked to come back, today. We don’t want you to complicate things for us because of overcrowding. You can go and come back another day. Or, you can re-register online.” Another client noted that the portal appeared to have been shut down as it is no longer accepting further requests for registration. “Then it is not my fault,” the nurse replied. “But we definitely cannot attend to everybody today. Please, don’t be angry.
Indeed, Governor Sanwo-Olu had, at a press conference at the beginning of the current vaccination exercise, revealed that out of 601,000 doses allocated to the state by the Federal government, only 299,000 had been received as at August 18, 2021.
Grumblings over preferential treatment
As the nurse was talking, a man walked up to her, and boldly demanded to be attended to immediately. She momentarily stopped to look at him. Then she asked him his age. He mentioned 57. “Oh no, we are looking for people from 60 and above; anybody in that category?” Four people raised their hands: two men, two women. She asked them to wait so they could be attended to.
But as they sat there waiting for their turns, strange people from God-knows-where kept trooping in and out of the vaccination and documentation room. One of the four elders, a woman, shook her head, turned, and said to someone sitting beside her. “Dis country don spoil. We pray for it every day but it is like bad people are not allowing our prayers to be answered. Like my husband would always say, it is like the sun has affected our brains so much that we no longer think straight.”
“I think they are waiting for your own line (for elderly people) to reduce before they call you people in,” a young man sitting and discussing with his wife, explained, in an attempt to pacify her anger. She looked at him, sighed, and said: “It is my husband that brought me here. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have come because I don’t like being stressed for anything.”
Obviously, Sanwo-Olu’s promise to ensure that the administration of the vaccine is based solely on official appointment through online registration appeared not to be working at LASUTH/LASUCOM centre on this day.
A fat woman in blue suit, skirt and blouse, walked up to the security man and asked to see one Mrs Amope, one of the health officials. He looked at her, hesitated, before responding. “No, Madam; you can’t see her now; she is busy.” She flashed an ID card in his face, and said: “I am not here for vaccination because I had been vaccinated already. I just want to see her.”
Leaving his colleague to man the door, the security man vanished into the inner room to go look for her. One or two minutes later he reappeared with the official. On sighting her visitor, definitely an acquaintance from somewhere, she jokingly said: “Yeye woman, what can we do for you? Oya, come in.” At that juncture, the security men made way for her.
But the incident caused widespread murmuring from the crowd, irked by what they saw as a preferential treatment. “I don’t like people telling lies simply because they want to have their way,” a middle-aged woman who had been standing at the entrance door for a long time, said. “That woman is here for vaccination, pure and simple, but she pretended as if she was not, and even told a lie that she had been vaccinated. You can see that it is not true. But why does she have to tell a lie in order to go in. What about those of us who have been standing here since morning?”
Looking embarrassed, the LASUCOM Campus Marshall with “Oladapo” on his nametag, did not seem to have any answer to the woman’s question. He simply scratched his head and kept quiet. You recalled Sanwo-Olu saying that the ultimate goal of his administration was to vaccinate 60 per cent of the state’s residents in good time. But because of people who were not originally registered or who were registered but not formally given numbers at the venue, you could spend between two and three hours at LASUTH/LASUCOM, before you could get vaccinated.
As the grumble continued with more and more people being brought in through the backdoor, someone with a queer sense of humour jokingly dubbed the crowd the Prevention People’s Party of Nigeria (PPPN). “Do you know that if we organise ourselves very well, at the local and national levels, we can displace APC (All Progressives Congress) and PDP (People’s Democratic Party) from power?” He said to a friend, apparently, in an attempt to diffuse the rising attention. Some laughed, many did not.
Steps to taking vaccination and post-vaccination care
At LASUTH, as it gets to your turn to be vaccinated, first, you are sent to a table manned by a young woman in her 40s for your temperature and blood pressure readings. But findings show that it is not everybody that is subjected to the exercise. Only the elderly! Hence, from time to time, you would see young people who she felt did not meet the criteria being sent back to proceed to the next stage. From there, you are sent to the documentation desk to have your information details on the registration printout that you came with, or that you stored in your phone, confirmed. At the desk, further details about your persons, occupation, house address, age, etc, are also obtained and stored in the system. At the end of the session, you are then given a green vaccination card to take to the next desk where three female nurses are waiting to give you the first jab on the upper part of your left arm.
After that, you are sent to the last table where you are given a form entitled “Adverse events following COVID-19 vaccination in LASUTH.” Among the information that clients were expected to supply include: date of vaccination; name, age, sex, occupation, religion, address, marital status, known history of allergy. You were also asked to indicate by answering, “yes”, “no” or “don’t know”, whether you have co-morbid history such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, asthma, sickle cell disease.
Finally, you are asked to state which of these you are experiencing as side effects, after the vaccination. They are tiredness; headache, aches; sick feeling; low grade fever; high-grade fever; diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, etc. You were advised to fill the form and return it in a week’s time, after your vaccination. One of the clients whose green card was sighted by this reporter was asked to report back on September 30, 2021 for the second dose.