“There is so much information about COVID-19 Vaccines, I don’t know whether they are all right or wrong, but I don’t know which to believe anymore. I would rather not take the vaccine than to find out that what I have heard is true.”
These were the words of Ifesinachi Victor, a mother of three who resides and works as a carer for an octogenarian in a suburb of Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Area in Lagos State.
Victor had given her reasons for refusing the COVID-19 vaccines as numerous information she had read about, without tangible evidence to counter such information.
Victor said she knows people who have taken the vaccine and had some side effects and she is not sure what effect the vaccine would have on her if she takes it.
“It’s better that I don’t take it and be safe. After all, I’ve heard that taking the vaccine does not mean you cannot get COVID again.
“The Mama that I work with, when I took her for the vaccination, she was told to take paracetamol before coming and after taking the vaccine. I made sure I gave her paracetamol but the vaccine really affected her,” Victor stated.
“Mama that was fine before we left the house was very down when we got back home, who knows what the vaccine has done to her and you think what people are saying on social media about the vaccine is wrong,” she wondered.
Victor further noted that, “the truth is that I don’t have any reason to be vaccinated, I’m not travelling outside Nigeria and I’m doing the needful to ensure I don’t get COVID.”
Victor’s perception about COVID-19 vaccine is similar to that of some Nigerians who have shared their reservations about receiving the vaccine as a result of the information they have read online.
Tracy Onabis, a disability rights advocate, who had been vaccinated before being exposed to misinformation about the vaccine recalled her experience when she spoke with BONews Service.
“It was after I took my COVID vaccine that I saw a video of someone whose arm generates electricity because he had taken the vaccine. If I’d seen that video before taking my vaccine, I might not have been vaccinated.”
Acceptance of COVID-19 Vaccines by Nigerians
Nigerians have been receiving COVID-19 Vaccines but there is still hesitation from different quarters. To increase the rate of people who would be vaccinated, the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, had hinted that the Federal Government may sanction eligible Nigerians who refuse COVID-19 vaccination, noting that, “the government may “apply the basic rule of law” against such people because they will be endangering the lives of other people.
Specifically, the Ondo and Edo State governments had given directives that civil servants in their states must be vaccinated. On September 15, 2021, the Edo State government enforced the commencement of no vaccination card, no entry into all state government owned facilities.
As at September 21, Nigeria had received 8,901,440 and administered at least 6,186,647 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, indicating 1.5% of Nigeria’s population has been vaccinated based on the country’s population of over 200 million people.
According to reports obtained by Reuters from the Federal Ministry of Health, “Nigeria averaged about 94,293 doses administered each day. At that rate, it will take a further 427 days to administer enough doses for another 10% of the population.”
Dr Shuaib while speaking at the National Flag-Off of Phase 2 COVID-19 Vaccination in Nigeria had given the vaccine utilization rate of the first phase at 98.6%.
“You would recall that Nigeria received 4,024,000 doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX facility in March 2021. We successfully vaccinated 3,966,005 eligible persons across 36 States and FCT, representing 98.6% utilization of the vaccines during our first Phase of the vaccination.”
However, Dr. Adeolu Olusodo, President, Atayese Health Network believes that the vaccine utilization rate wouldn’t have been so high if Nigeria had vaccines enough to go round its population at once.
“The vaccination has just gone round over 1.5% of the entire population of Nigeria, which means if there are 350 million doses of vaccines to go round the people (for two jabs per person), we would realize the rate of vaccine hesitancy among Nigerians.
“Having 98% utilization rate is not a plus, it is about checking the number of people who have been vaccinated in comparison to the entire population,” he added.
Dr. Olusodo also noted that if more vaccines are brought and Nigerians are not well informed about the necessity of the vaccine and the threat that COVID-19 portends to the populace, the utilization rate would be extremely low.
“Misinformation and mal-information about the vaccine is high and the government needs to address this. It is not just enough to make the vaccines available, but to provide citizens with evidence which would counter their misconceptions about the vaccine,” he added.
Fully Vaccinated Africans Considered unvaccinated in UK
On September 17, Alex Macheras, British Aviation analyst tweeted that the UK government has confirmed that if a person has been vaccinated in Africa, or South America, or countries including UAE, India, Turkey, Jordan, Thailand, Russia, such person is considered “unvaccinated” and must follow “unvaccinated” rules; 10 day home quarantine and tests.
UK government confirm tonight that if a person has been vaccinated in Africa, or South America, or countries including UAE, India, Turkey, Jordan, Thailand, Russia…
…you are considered “unvaccinated” and must follow “unvaccinated” rules ⛔️ = 10 day home quarantine & tests
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) September 17, 2021
Dr. Alli-Oluwafuyi Abdulmusawwir, Lecturer, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Ilorin, said, based on his own investigation, the UK government’s position may be due to manipulations that could be taking place in the countries that have been listed.
“It is possible that others are getting vaccination cards without being vaccinated. They might have had instances where people who travelled to the UK and claimed to have been vaccinated lied about it, and decided to make this regulation as measures to curb any crisis.
“This is a possibility because I don’t want to look at it from the conspiracy that vaccines from other countries are substandard, even when they are being donated by the UK government.”
While noting that an official statement which should be properly communicated, the pharmacologist said there is every likelihood it would also lead to vaccine hesitancy, because another reason people get vaccinated is because of foreign trips.
Dr. Adeolu Olusodo also thinks that the UK government might have made such a regulation because of the concerns that other countries do not comply strictly with the cold chain storage for COVID vaccines.
“For Nigeria as an example, they know we don’t have uninterrupted power supply to keep vaccines safe which could have rendered the vaccines useless before being administered.
“I am not saying this is the reason the UK government has given such a directive, but there is a possibility that they’re concerned about the potency of the vaccines being administered,” Dr. Olusodo added.
COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in Nigeria
Dr. Abdulmusawwir, believes that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is not peculiar to Nigeria alone as there are reports of hesitancy in other countries.
While noting that some academic reports and research have revealed the willingness of Nigerians to take the vaccines, he said COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Nigeria is hinged on “misinformation, inadequate knowledge about the vaccine, about the processes leading to the production and efficacy of the vaccine.”
The pharmacologist stated that, “there is also deliberate spread of misinformation by people with different agenda which has been amplified by social media.
“What I have seen in published articles that I have come across is that the major factor for vaccine hesitancy is the possibility of side effects and these unconfirmed side effects are widely shared on social media, which is misinformation.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Adeolu Olusodo of Atayese Health Network opined that the main reason for vaccine hesitancy is because “many Nigerians do not consider COVID as a major threat and they don’t see the reason they should be vaccinated.”
Tackling Misinformation to Build Vaccine Confidence
Dr. Anne Olowu, Public Health Physician, Health Promotion Expert and Founder, AnneAide Consulting stated that some of the factors responsible for vaccine hesitancy among Nigerians is because of “misinformation on the vaccines via various social media platforms, religious bodies and leaders as well as individual reservations on the vaccine safety and efficacy.
“Lack of information and/or update of information on vaccine availability, accessibility and affordability. Fear and reservation of a new vaccine and vaccine technology.”
Dr. Olowu who noted that people in rural and informal communities are likely not to be vaccinated because of their perception that the virus never existed, recommended that such groups should be targeted with “health information and education through the use of relevant social media platforms commonly used by them in the language they understand and delivered by persons within and outside the communities who are well respected.”
The public health physician who believes that people in informal settlements are more susceptible to contracting the virus because of the unhealthy living conditions and inability to practice social distancing in their communities stressed the importance of community involvement in the vaccination exercise.
She said it is important to “encourage community involvement and participation among local communities in vaccination and educational processes.
“Using religious and local social bodies to disseminate information on efficacy, accessibility and availability of vaccines within the community.”
She also believes that health workers can help in countering some of the misinformation around COVID Vaccines “by supporting and providing awareness campaigns and information, debunking myths and misinformation on social media, and leading by being good examples of preventive measure adoption.”
To avoid misleading people, Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director, NPHCDA urged Nigerians to share the right information and rely on trusted sources.
“It is the responsibility of all Nigerians to ensure they disseminate the right information to their loved ones and community members and advocate that people should take the vaccines so that we can continue to build our immunity and eventually return to our normal ways of living.”
Getting Vaccinated Before It is too Late
Samantha Wendell, a bride-to-be in Kentucky, who was worried that the COVID-19 vaccine would affect her fertility as widely spread on social media, has died after being infected with the virus. Wendell, while on her hospital bed, asked if she could get COVID vaccine, an attempt that was too late to save her.
Also, A 24 year old man in Georgia, Blake Bargatze, needed a double lung transplant after refusing a coronavirus vaccine and then getting infected. His suffering prompted his mother to urge others to get vaccinated.
In Nigeria, Ms Ramat Lamidi (pseudonym) who tested positive to COVID-19 in February 2021 when there were no vaccines in the country said she utilized the opportunity to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccines became available in the country.
Sharing her experience, she said, “this is an experience I do not wish for my enemies. I have been ill for a long time and wasted time going for wrong tests before being referred to the general hospital where it was confirmed as COVID. The thought of this alone impacted negatively on my BP. I spent a lot trying to save myself from this terrible moment. A Lot of drugs were prescribed and everyday was a living hell while I isolated myself at home.”
She tasked Nigerians to get vaccinated as it helps the body to build antibodies to fight the virus just like every other vaccinations.
On her part, Mrs. Sumbo Oladipo who tested positive to COVID-19 in January 2021 said that it was a horrible experience trying to fight for survival, adding that she was admitted at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, IDH-Yaba for eight days where she was on oxygen throughout the period.
Despite her experience, Mrs. Oladipo said she was not quick to get vaccinated even when she had the opportunity to get the vaccine outside Nigeria. “I understand that COVID vaccines were newly developed and there was so much information going around about the vaccine, so I decided to wait for a long time to be sure of the implications of the vaccines before I got vaccinated. However, I have registered online and I’m going to be vaccinated soon.”
Mrs. Oladipo believes that every Nigerian should take responsibility for their safety and wellbeing but she is worried that, “except the government makes it compulsory or extremely necessary for the vaccine to be taken, it would be difficult for people to take the vaccine if their mind is not set on it.”
” The elites who need to get vaccinated before travelling outside Nigeria might consider it important but what about low-income earners who do not believe in the existence of the virus or see the need to get vaccinated.”
Dr Abdulmusawwir urged Nigerians to make informed decisions and get vaccinated before it is too late.
“I got infected with COVID-19 and myself and close family saw how serious it was. When the opportunity for COVID-19 vaccine came, I got vaccinated and other members of my family who experienced what I went through also got vaccinated.”
“I have seen lots of people coming out to get vaccinated, I will only urge Nigerians to cease the opportunity to take the vaccines before it is too late.”
“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“