The Global Director, Developing 8 (D-8) Organisation – Health and Social Protection Programme (D-8 HSP) and former Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) Dr. Ado Muhammad says Nigeria could rapidly increase its COVID-19 uptake if communities in Nigeria are individually engaged based on their peculiarities.
Member countries of the Developing 8 Organisation for Economic Cooperation include; Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey with a population coverage of over 1.5 billion people.
Dr. Ado made this known in an exclusive interview with HealthInformaticsTV.Africa where he mentioned that Nigeria as recognised by the international community has done quite well in the overall management of the COVID-19 pandemic noting however that there is room for improvement.
The challenge of vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy theories against vaccine acceptance is not new in Nigeria and the world over. Right from the days of Polio, Meningitis and Yellow fever vaccines in Nigeria have experienced all kinds of oppositions but there has always being a way to surmount the challenge of hesitancy.
On the need to defeat the conspiracy theories, the Global Director, D-8 HSP stressed that Nigeria already a robust existing structure with which it can drive demand creation for COVID-19 vaccine.
According to him, the structure simply requires consistent engagement of local, traditional, religious and association leaders that have high influence in their respective communities to understand the empirical proves of the potency of the vaccine.
He also noted that holding conferences and workshops for traditional and religious leaders in the cities does not yield results as much as when they are met in their communities and spoken to along the lines of their societal peculiarities.
“If you situate Nigeria’s overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic within the Global Health architecture, We have done very well because if you compare us with countries that are at the same level of health systems or even those stronger than us, we have done very well. Even if you look at most countries that have very strong health systems, they have been greatly impacted negatively by the pandemic in terms of the numbers, negatives outcomes, mortality, morbidity, and in terms of impact on the social and economic aspects of life.
“Let me state unequivocally that COVID-19 vaccine is safe. It is important I situate that within the conversation. And let me also state that vaccination will reduce mortality, it will reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will also reduce severe illness and it has also been demonstrated scientifically that it reduces death. That means it has huge benefits, but vaccines like any other biotechnological products has its side effects – even the food or water you take have side effects – in medicine, you always need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. But it scientifically obvious that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the minimal side effects.
“It behoves on the authorities not only at the Federal level, not only National Primary Health Care Development Agency or Federal Ministry of Health and other authorities at the state level but also at the states, local government and community levels for us to use the existing platform that has been tested and trusted because it is all about trust.
“Somebody in the village may refuse to get vaccinated because they do not trust the government, so it is important that we engage people that they trust to convince them. They won’t trust me, you or any of the elites coming from Abuja but in every community, I can assure you, there is somebody somewhere that when he speaks they will listen.
“and those are the kind of people that we identified for polio and we engaged them. Every Community has its peculiarity. You need to go to the grassroots, you need to go the micro-level, it is not a macro management issue. It is not about symposiums; it is not about conferences; no, it is about going to the grassroots.”
No one has a right to, in protecting his or her rights, infringe on the rights of another because where the rights of an individual stop, that is where the rights of his or her fellow citizens begin.
This was Dr. Ado’s position when questioned about Federal Government’s decision on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all civil servants within its workforce.
He said he is in full and total support of the decision recently taken by the Federal Government but however advised that Government must continue to engage with facts backed by science that the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh any “mild” side effects.
“I totally endorse Federal Government’s decision on mandatory vaccination. I totally endorse it 100%. The Federal Government is doing the right thing in terms of compelling civil servants and public officers to get immunised and vaccinated. This being that for as long as you are paid by taxpayers and for as long as you engage the public, and for as long as you occupy public office that will cause you to continuously interact with people, you cannot continue to be a risk to the population.
“Yes every citizen has a choice and right to their health services but they must be mindful that individual rights stop where the rights of another begin. You can have your rights and choice if such rights and choices do not affect others. For example, if your inside of your house and your engaging the public. But you cannot have a choice and interact with people. It is different!”
Dr. Ado Muhammed however, strongly advocates for application of a little bit of force and persuasion through scientifically backed evidence of the potency of COVID-19 vaccines to gain citizens buy in