As the global community including Nigeria records decline in the number of persons accessing the COVID-19 vaccination, a medical expert has raised concern over the decline, but confirmed that the Lagos State Government has been able to achieve just 27 per cent out of the eight million adults targeted for vaccination in the state. The State Immunisation Coordinator at the Lagos State Primary Health Care Board (LSPHCB), Dr. Olubunmi Akinlade who expressed concern over low turnout of adult citizens in the state for the vaccination, however affirmed that the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is still very much in the country. The State Immunisation Coordinator spoke at a two-day media roundtable organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in conjunction with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Lagos recently.
Coronavirus disease (COVID- 19) is known to spread from person to person through droplets released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. However, some will become seriously ill and require medical attention. In some cases, some infected with the virus particularly the elderly and those managing chronic diseases, could die. According to the Lagos State Immunisation Coordinator, it is imperative for Nigerians that are yet to access COVID-19 vaccination to do so without delay. While those that are yet to get the second dose of the vaccination are advised to do so, Akinlade urged persons that have taken the complete doses to ensure they go for the booster, irrespective of the COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy being experienced in the country.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines vaccine hesitancy as the delay in the acceptance of blunt refusal of vaccines, despite the availability of vaccine services. The term covers refusals to vaccinate, delaying vaccines, accepting vaccines but remaining uncertain about their use, or using certain vaccines but not others. According to statistics from ‘Our World in Data,’ 69.7 per cent of the world population has received at least one dose of a COVID- 19 vaccine. While 13.33 billion doses have been administered globally, and 337,946 are now administered each day. On the contrary, 28.3 per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. With the poor rate of coronavirus vaccination in low-income countries including Nigeria, Akinlade expressed concern that many who had taken the first dose of the vaccination have not turned up for the second dose while some that have taken the complete doses do not even bother to come for the booster vaccination.
However, she stressed that taking both the complete dose as well as the booster, had become necessary in view of the continued existence of the coronavirus in the country. “COVID-19 is still very much here; people are coming into the country daily. We need to ensure that we are vaccinated.”
She said in other developed countries, they have vaccinated a lot of their citizens, yet coronavirus cases are still being recorded abroad. Based on the development of more people coming into Nigeria from those developed nations, Dr. Akinlade said eligible adults in Nigeria should prioritise taking complete COVID-19 vaccination in addition to the booster dose.
“We need to achieve herd immunity in Nigeria,” she added. Heard immunity is a state in which a large proportion of a population is able to repel an infectious disease, thereby limiting the extent to which the disease can spread from person to person. It occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether through previous infections or vaccination, thereby reducing the likelihood of infection for individuals who lack immunity. Herd immunity can be conferred through natural immunity, previous exposure to the disease, or vaccination. An entire population does not need to be immune to attain herd immu n i t y. Rather, herd immunity can occ u r when t h e popul a – t ion dens i t y o f pe rsons wh o a r e susceptible to infection is sufficiently low so as to minimise the likelihood of an infected individual coming in contact with a susceptible individual. Akinlade said the target by Lagos State is to vaccinate 69,000 people daily based on the eight million target but noted that the high reluctance of people to get vaccinated is greatly slowing down the exercise. According to her, only about 20,000 to 30,000 people present themselves for vaccination each day and such a figure is not encouraging more so that the virus is still around and that some people contract it and die without showing the symptoms.
However, she said the Lagos State Government has made it so easy by designating many primary health centres and about 450 mobile outlets in addition across the state for people to access vaccination either as first-timers or those for the second dose or the booster. She, therefore, urged those who are yet to get vaccinated to do so at any of the designated centres near them as they would need to protect themselves and the people around them. COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness.
The Director of the National Orientation Agency, Lagos State, Waheed Ishola said the essence of the workshop was to bring media practitioners to scale up their knowledge on the COVAX vaccine mandate and hesitancy and to increase the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine. “We found out that the majority of our people are thinking that COVID-19 is a done deal but it’s not from evidence across the world.” On the contrary, Ishola said coronavirus disease has come to stay. “So, we need to protect ourselves by taking the vaccination as well as practicing those nonpharmaceutical interventions which are washing of hands regularly, covering the nose when you’re sneezing, and all of that, keeping safe distance and using of nose masks not only when you are out in public but also in an enclosed space because you don’t know who may have contracted the disease.”
Furthermore, Ishola said, “When the media practitioners write stories around coronavirus, people will begin to understand the importance of all of these COVID-19 vaccines; they will begin to accept the fact that those that have not taken the mediction would see the need to take it, complete the dose as well take the booster.”