Vaccination: Expert Calls for Engagement of Religious Leaders, Community Influencers



A public health physician, Dr Adegboyega Oyefabi, says health education and community engagement of will assist Nigeria to overcome the vaccine hesitancy.

Oyefabi, who works at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, Kaduna, and also the Team Lead, Infectious Disease Control Centres, Kaduna, made the assertion on Wednesday.

He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that factors driving vaccine hesitancy were concerns about vaccine safety, rapid vaccine development, prioritisation of the target population for the vaccination, capacity of cold chain system and equity in vaccine distribution.

The expert said that misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccination was similar to the misconception, stigmatisation and negative perception of COVID-19 disease, which culminated in poor or non-compliance to the pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions.

“These eventually contributed, in no small measures, to the second wave of the disease in Nigeria.

“We need to get over negative perceptions fuelling vaccine hesitancy and make ourselves, family and other community members available for vaccination when the time comes.

“This means that our community, religious leaders and other community influencers have to partner with the public health stakeholders.

“This is to disseminate correct information, health education and community mobilisation for the acceptance and use of the COVID-19 vaccination by the populace.

“This is how we defeat polio. This is how we are going to defeat COVID-19,” he said.

According to him, what people need to know is that the current vaccines in Nigeria have passed through rigorous clinical trials, involving tens of thousands of participants in different phases of clinical trials.

“It has also passed through the scrutiny of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC); moreso, frontline healthcare workers like us, and our strategic leaders have taken doses of the vaccine first.

“Vaccine safety monitoring system have also been established. The vaccine will help a lot, especially if combined with some of the public health measures earlier

“This will be done in Nigeria through accurate, timely and accessible data collection, collation and analysis.

“Nigerians are asking many questions about the vaccine. This borders primarily on the safety and ability of the vaccine to give a long lasting immunity.

“We must understand that we got these vaccines with the support of the ‘big nations’ not because of so much affection for developing nations, but because of the need to control the pandemic everywhere in the world.

“If the big nations get all vaccinated without a plan for the less developed nations, international travels will still spread the infection to them,’’ the expert said.

Oyefabi said that when a large number of Nigerians were vaccinated, it would assist to develop herd, community or population immunity.

“This is capable of controlling the disease by reducing its prevalence to a level that was below public health importance,” Oyefabi said.

He added that vaccine plus the use of other non-pharmaceutical measures was more protective.

“Use your facemasks, though, you are vaccinated, especially in public places,” the expert said.

He said the current vaccine immunity could last one to two years, adding that the vaccine would likely be administered annually in the country.

Narrating his vaccination experience, Oyefabi said that the vaccination procedures were not different from the usual routine vaccination for vaccine preventable diseases in Nigeria.

According to him, the injection was very simple and painless. I was asked to rest for 15 minutes after the vaccination, and it was all over.

“About 24 hours later, I felt very mild swelling and pain at the injection site, this later resolves after few hours. No fever, no dizziness, no other local or systemic symptoms following the vaccination.

“This was also similar to the experiences of all my colleagues and strategic leaders that have so far been vaccinated in Kaduna State.

“We are all very fine. Nobody has reported any untoward side effect. I was also issued a vaccination card. My details were earlier captured electronically before vaccination.

“I was told that the vaccination would be in two doses. A date was specified in my vaccination card in 12 weeks interval for the second dose.

“The facility, I mean the hospital where I would get the second dose was also specified,” the expert said.