ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that only 3.5 per cent of citizens of Nigeria have so far been vaccinated almost nine months after the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines in the country.
The international body described the 3.5 per cent Covid-19 vaccination coverage rate in the country as unfortunate, abysmal and unacceptable.
Communications Officer, UNICEF Enugu Zonal Office, Dr Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe, made the revelation at a one-day Zonal Media Executive meeting on Child Rights Influenced Reporting on Covid-19 pandemic in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Quoting a data collated by One World in Data, she said it was appalling that while countries like the United Arab Emirates, China, United States and other advanced countries scored over 80 per cent in vaccination coverage, African continent, including Nigeria, scored abysmally less than seven per cent.
Onuoha-Ogwe said: “If you look at the radar, the coverage rate in Africa is quite low, yet Africa is carrying the burden of the disease. When there was infant and maternal mortality, it was high in Africa, infectious disease rate is equally high in Africa.
“Obviously, the burden of disease has been high in the continent. So having this number in the whole of Africa less than seven per cent and Nigeria struggling at less than four per cent is quite abysmal and should be improved by the media stepping in to debunk the myths and encourage people to accept the vaccine because it is safe and effective to combat the disease.”
She said there were many emerging issues around the Covid-19 vaccinations and the theories surrounding the vaccines that were also negatively impacting the speedy uptake of the vaccine.
She said UNICEF Nigeria brought the media together to let them have access through their experts in the medical field who were working on Covid-19, providing education, treating people, managing centres where coronavirus patients are also being hospitalised.
Onuoha-Ogwe stated: “These people are very versed with knowledge on the evolving issues and trends and are well able to demystify the rumours, tell us what the facts are, what to expect, what not to expect in very few cases.
“They will also try to encourage us to forge on with our reportage since we have the teeming publics that are relying on messages from us to keep hope alive and also to stop future spread of the disease.
“UNICEF is supporting the government of Nigeria alongside other development partners to kick-start the mass vaccination campaign in every part of the country.”
Also speaking, Dr. Chikezie Obasi, a resource person and Public Health Specialist, Department of Community Medicine, Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (ESUTH), encouraged Nigerians to get vaccinated, debunking various myths and misconceptions around the Covid-19 vaccines.
Obasi said: “A lot of people have a lot of reasons why they do not want to take the vaccine. One of the reasons is the way and manner Covid-19 palliative was shared. We saw a lot of youths during EndSARS protests storm the palliatives warehouses. That eliminated a lot of trust that people have, so they did not actually buy into the vaccines.
“Many of the people I have interacted with will always tell you when the palliatives were there, people were not given, now the vaccine is here and they are being forced to take it and that government does not bring something that is good. What we keep telling them is that Covid-19 vaccine is not solely controlled by government of the country, it is immune to political manipulations, and that it is meant for them.
“It has to do with our own lives, it has to do with what we need to take, what we need to do to get out of this Covid-19, it’s not palliative. Palliatives and Covid-19 vaccines are two different things controlled by two different organs.
“There are so many other myths that are being peddled about the vaccine, like that the injected areas magnet metals, light electric bulbs, among others. These are all fallacy, they are not true, people are actually brainwashed into believing that it is true.
“The issue of magnete in the body is false, the issue of injecting chips into your system to tamper with your DNA, monitor and remote control you are not true.
“I was the second person to take the jab in March this year when the vaccination started in Enugu State. From then till now, there has not been any issue and there will not be. I am hale and hearty. My parents, wife and children who have taken the vaccines are in good health.
“We are really here to debunk all the myths being peddled about the veracity of the vaccine, they are not true and we need to take the vaccine to kick this pandemic out of the way to return the world to how it used to be before the pandemic broke.”