By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
The opposition against Covid19 vaccination by some conspiracy theorists in the country seems to have become futile and ineffective, as the Federal Government as well as several state government have begun the enforcement of mandatory vaccination for all Nigerians and foreign residents.
Bothered by the resistance and deliberate falsehoods against the exercise by its opponents and the low vaccination level across the country, the Federal Government had on August 31, 2021, said it was exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians and vowed that it would not hesitate to apply the basic rule of law against people who refused the vaccine because they would be endangering the lives of others.
“The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health are exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians, including federal civil servants and corporate entities.
“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, then we will need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy.
“If some individuals refuse to take the vaccine, hence endangering those who have or those who could not due to medical exemptions, then we have to apply the basic rule of law, which stipulates that your human right stops where mine begins.
“So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others”, the Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, had admonished.
And on Wednesday, October 13, the government made real its threat by making Covid19 vaccination compulsory for all federal civil servants despite the hues and cries from opponents.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, while making the announcement in Abuja, warned that workers who failed to get vaccinated will be barred from entering their places of work.
The SGF said starting from December 1, workers who do not show proof of vaccination and or a negative COVID-19 result will be barred from government offices.
“With effect from 1st December 2021, federal government employees shall be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result done within 72 hours, to gain access to their offices, in all locations within Nigeria and our Missions. An appropriate service-wide advisory/circular will be issued to guide the process”.
The SGF also stated that testing statistics generated over the last four weeks have shown that the infection rate is going down in some states, while it is going up in others.
He said the committee will continue to review Nigeria’s protocols based on global developments, science, and national experience.
Speaking a day after the announcement, the Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, however explained that federal civil servants were not under obligation to take the vaccine, but must show negative Covid19 PCR test.
“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 workplace is safe for all citizens.
“Clearly, there is a 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,” Shuaib had explained.
He disclosed that there are enough vaccines to cover the population of employees of the Federal Government, assuring that the PSC had already done a comprehensive analysis and forecast on the availability of Covid19 vaccines.
“Based on delivery forecasts from the COVAX facility and 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 added.
However, Business Hallmark reliably gathered that the requirement to produce a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior by those who do not want to be vaccinated is a bobby-trap trap set by government against opponents and human rights activists that may want to institute law suits against the government in court.
According to medical and legal experts who spoke to our correspondent on the development, the requirement to produce a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior by workers and visitors who are against being vaccinated is almost an impossible barrier to scale.
“I will just advice any worker who loves himself or any visitor who wants to gain entry into government institutions to go and get the vaccination.
“If you read the directive well, it said a worker or visitor to government offices and institutions must produce a valid negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to entry.
“What this means is that the test will only be valid for 72 hours (3 days). If it (test) is beyond 72, the government has the right to deny you entry.
“In other words, a worker who is against vaccination will need to go for a test every 3 days, that is 10 times in a month. At the current testing rate, only a millionaire will have the resources to be conducting a test every three days to meet the requirement”, a medical doctor with a private hospital in Lagos explained.
BH checks on the websites of selected government laboratories in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Kano, show that a test cost the minimum of N50,500.
That means a worker that is trying to avoid getting vaccinated will have to cough out at least N505,000 every month for the required 10 PCR tests.
However, a study of a booklet on the salaries and allowances of federal government employees indicated that it is only workers who have risen to the positions of full directors and permanent secretaries that earn up to that amount and are in a position to afford the fees if they are not removing a kobo from their monthly pay.
“Apart from getting a forged PCR certificate, no civil servant can afford it. Even for those that can source the money elsewhere, they will face another challenge of explaining where they get the money from”, a top civil servant in the Federal Ministry of Finance explained.
Also, a top official in the Ministry of Health informed our correspondent that the government plans to enforce the Covid19 vaccine mandate on all Nigerians as soon as the country has enough dosage to go round.
“What we are witnessing now is like the second phase of the project. The first phase started with health and first line workers. As government receives more vaccines, it will extend the requirement to others until everyone is covered”, the source claimed.
Apart from the Federal Government, other states like Edo and Ondo have made Covid19 vaccines compulsory for citizens of their states, while states like Osun and Ebonyi are backing the decision of the Federal Government to mandate the vaccine for all its workers.
For instance, the Governor Godwin Obaseki led Edo State government, recently mandated people of the state to take the vaccine, warning that anyone who had not been vaccinated would not be allowed into public places such as banks and worship centres.
The enforcement of the mandate, BH gathered, came into effect on September 15, when those without proof of vaccination were prevented from entering the state secretariat, despite an ex parte order granted by a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt restraining the governor from enforcing the forced vaccination order.
Another state, Ondo, has also given its workers a two-week deadline to get vaccinated or risk being declared absent from work.
According to the state government, vaccination would be made compulsory for all as soon as the quantity of vaccines available was enough to go round.
The state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, said the process of making the vaccination compulsory was ongoing.
“It was a major issue and indeed the resolution at the last State Executive Council meeting. Aside from measures already being put in place for compliance by residents, the Head of Service was mandated by Council to drive the compulsory vaccination in the public service,” Ojogo stated.
In Osun State, the government said the Federal Government and others planning to take stringent measures to enforce vaccination might be justified with the way the virus was spreading.
“COVID-19 has come to stay. We just have to devise means of living with it in a way that it will not mar our existence as a people.
“As we see some other states making some stringent means, it is worth it. This pandemic is spreading. Here, we are looking at our indices and we are analysing them.
“If our indices point at doing the same, Mr. Governor will not hesitate to do anything that will safeguard the healthy living of the people,” said Dr. Siji Olamiju, the Special Adviser to the state governor on Public Health.
Likewise in Ebonyi, the state government is planning to enforce compulsory vaccination for all residents.
It, however, assured that it won’t do so immediately as millions of Ebonyi people are yet to be vaccinated.
“Yes, we have that in mind but we have not started measures geared towards barring persons that are not vaccinated from entering government offices or public places.
“The reason is that over 50 per cent of the population has not been vaccinated and so there is no point doing that now.
“Enforcing such measures now may not be the best. But you can do such a thing when you are sure you have vaccinated up to 50 per cent of the population. It is at that point you can come up with such measures. We will do it, but we have not started,“ declared Dr. Daniel Umezuruike, the state’s Commissioner for Health.
Speaking on the low rate of vaccination in the country, some health experts who expressed worry, blamed it on false reports peddled by conspiracy theorists that the vaccines were produced to reduce the population of the black race.
The Chairman, University of Ibadan COVID-19 Emergency Response Committee, Prof Victoria Adetunji, lamented that many Nigerians are afraid of taking COVID-19 vaccine because of the myth that the vaccines were produced to reduce human population.
“Many are not taking the vaccine because of the myth going around that COVID-19 vaccine is meant to kill people. Some are saying it is the mark of the devil, 666, but as a Christian, I know that rapture would have taken place before the devil’s mark would be given”, Adetunji stated.
Meanwhile, as reported by the NCDC on its website, the nation, as of 10:01pm of Saturday, October 16, has so far recorded 208,797 confirmed cases out of 3,142,971 tested. Active cases are 9,603, discharged cases 196,425 and deaths 2,769.
Also, about 2.3% of Nigerians or 2.54 million people have been fully vaccinated as of Thursday, October 14, with at least 4.7% of the population receiving one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to Reuters.