The world has faced challenges owing to the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Many cities and businesses were shut, livelihoods were impacted while lives were also lost as a result of the impact of the pandemic globally.
While the media focused attention on global economies, the impact of the pandemic on developing countries had also been felt from the rising prices of basic commodities especially essentials commodities such as food.
To mitigate the impact of COVID 19, scientists worked around the clock and developed vaccine to curtail the spread of the disease.
While it is expensive to purchase for all citizens, the COVAX facility, a partnership of the World Health Organisation, CEPI, UNICEF, the Global Alliance for Vaccine (GAVI) as well as the African Union donated 4million doses of the Vaccine to Nigeria.
The Director, Disease Control, Ministry of Health Edo State, Dr Bruce Osa, revealed that 50,000 doses were delivered to Edo state.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is the Federal Agency saddled with the responsibility of vaccination in the country. NPHCDA already has their target for the vaccine allocated to states. With a total population of over 4million people, a state like Edo has to wait for allocation from the NPHCDA to vaccinate the people against COVID 19.
However, states are allowed to advocate for more doses in case this number is not enough.
Recently, the Federal Government sent in another batch of doses to Edo State in the second phase of Vaccination.
The major challenge that the vaccine came with had to do with the conspiracy theories, fake news and negative perceptions that followed and dampened the eagerness of the public to comply with taking the vaccine to prevent the disease.
According to media reports, Edo State Government took delivery of 76,712 doses COVID-19 vaccines from the Federal Government.
Health Educator, Edo State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (ESPHDA), Mrs. Irene Uabor, revealed that the vaccines included 65,016 doses of Moderna and 11,696 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines.
Dr Osa agrees that the most challenging issue with COVID 19 is that, “most of our citizens do not believe in the existence of COVID 19.”
He stressed that this has made it difficult to effect or achieve compliance with preventive measures such as han dwashing – nose masks, social distancing or even taking the vaccine noting that the high number of conspiracy theories among the people through social media prevents people from taking the vaccine which is the surest way to prevent or stop the cycle of infections.
Dr Osa disclosed that when the state received the first doses of vaccines in the first phase, people were not coming out, observing that it was not peculiar to Edo state but a national phenomenon
He said, “that was why the initial target population that was supposed to take the vaccine in the first phase, were frontline health workers and strategic leaders.
But as the process went on, “the vaccination team had to change their strategy. They looked at it that many people were not coming out so they had to involve many persons to be captured so that the vaccine will be exhausted. Anybody that was above 18 years and willing to take the vaccine was given.”
The Director Disease Control maintained that the state government intensified advocacy to all stakeholders including religious bodies, banks, artisans etc, noting that this strategy to involve responsible members of society heading one group or the other to drive the vaccination message to their members was a way to counter misinformation and get more people to protect themselves by believing in the vaccine and coming forward to get vaccinated
In the area of distribution of the vaccine to ensure it gets to the people and to increase demand for the vaccine, the state government used special teams to complement the ones sent to the state by the NPHCDA. The state government was fully responsible for the stipend and other logistics to the special teams to deliver the vaccine. This special teams by the state government complements the teams using fixed post and temporary post.
The priority focus of vaccination in Edo State is in areas where the disease was most recorded, the ‘hotspots’ of Covid 19. The state teams were moving from place to place to administer the vaccine provided there was a sizeable number of persons ready to be vaccinated. This can be described as a good strategy to solve the challenge of lack of storage facilities in the Primary Health Care Centre where power supply poses a challenge.
For the second phase vaccination, the state government has created 50 Special Teams that are going to capture all the stakeholders in five (5) LGAs (the hotspots of the COVID 19 infections. The State Special Teams will supplement the 71 teams that the NPHCDA have earmarked for the second phase.
According to Dr Osa, out of the 50,000 vaccines administered in the first phase, 25,000 did not take the second dose. The Second batch of 11,696 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines is specifically for those who did not complete their dose in the first phase of Vaccination.
The situation is not different in Kaduna State as the Secretary, Health4All Media Initiative, Sola Ojo puts it “there is nothing serious about storage and distribution of the vaccine in Kaduna State. This is because, before now the state has been working effectively on healthcare under one roof. As part of that programme, there was deliberate plan to upgrade or build where applicable, 255 Primary Health Care centres in each of the 255 political wards across the state.”
This strengthening of the healthcare system at the Primary level prepared the state for any eventuality including the dreaded COVID 19 pandemic.
On storage and distribution of the vaccines, Ojo reveals that not all the PHCs are rendering the vaccination services. There are secondary facilities (Super Centres) and some PHCs that have solar power facilities to complement required energy to keep the vaccines refrigerated.
Ojo said despite the fact that Solar power is available at that PHCs, the truth is that not many rural dwellers have access to the vaccine. They have to travel across a few kilometers to get it if they are convinced. And as it is, they are not convinced to do so because they believe they do not have the virus in the first place and are not at risk.
Ojo reports the Village Head of Gwagwada as saying that to the best of his knowledge his people have not been going for the vaccine because it is not available at the PHC in the community. He also said there are no cases of COVID 19 among his people which was why they are not desperate to have the vaccine.
Ojo noted that through his field work, it was observed that health workers take the vaccine to PHC facility at Dutse, a nearby community to Gwagwada village.
The strategy the Non-governmental Organisation, Health4All Media Initiative according to Ojo is to report on everyday people who are not ‘big men’ so to say, who have the virus. ‘They tell their stories and we share that with locals to change their self-denial mindset. For example, we have farmers from Soba Local Government who were admitted at the treatment centre at Hamdala Motel in Kaduna’
He notes that the major constraint is the inability of the state government to enforce adherence to the non-pharmaceutical protocols like effective use of face masks, hand-washing or washing of hands and social distancing.
Beyond the challenges of acquisition, storage and distribution of the vaccine for health workers, is the challenge of the citizens not believing in the existence of the disease, several conspiracy theories and fake news regarding the vaccine and even the disease challenging issues associated with the vaccine was getting the people to believe that the conspiracy theories were fake news.
The challenge associated with acquisition, storage and distribution are being tackled to the best of the ability of the state governments. What is left to do is to embark on coordinated efforts to change perceptions of the people.
Dr Osa suggests that people should seek information from authentic sources such as the World Health Organisation while people should also learn to fact check any questionable information or news about the COVID 19.
He also drew attention to the strategy used by the Government of Edo state to get the people to believe in the disease through using segmentation of the publics and using key leaders to drive messages to the people.
“This OUTBREAK story was supported by Code for Africa’s WanaData program as part of the Data4COVID19 Africa Challenge hosted by l’Agence française de développement (AFD), Expertise France, and The GovLab“