Six states oppose FG compulsory COVID-19 vaccine

Amid Federal Government’s concern over many Nigerians’ reluctance to take the Covid-19 vaccine and its plan to impose sanctions on those who refuse the vaccine when it is made available to all, some states have said they do not intend to force anyone to take the vaccine.

The states, including Enugu, Taraba, Cross River, Ogun, Bauchi and Abia, said they would keep appealing to their residents to take the vaccine instead of adopting strict measures to compel them.

Bothered about the low vaccination level across the country and the deadly nature of the Delta variant that is now in the country, the Federal Government had said it was exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians and 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 Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, on August 31, said, “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.”

Meanwhile, the six states ruled out such measures, saying they would continue to appeal to their residents.

In Enugu State, the Commissioner for Information and spokesperson for the state Action Committee on Covid-19, Mr Chidi Aroh, told one of our correspondents in an interview that the state would respect the fundamental rights of every resident of the state.

He added, “I know that in Enugu State, we encourage people to take vaccine but rest assured that in encouraging people to take vaccine, Enugu is a state that is guided by the law. We are going to respect the fundamental rights of everybody as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“So, in all we do, we will be guided by the process of the law and the administration will do everything within the extant laws. However, we say that it is proper for people to go and get vaccinated but we will not do what is illegal to get people vaccinated.”

In Taraba State, the Commissioner for Health and Chairman of the state task force on COVID-19, Dr Innocent Vakkai, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Jalingo, the state capital, appealed to the residents to take the vaccine to prevent the spread of the virus.

Vakkai said, “Though Edo State has made vaccination cards compulsory for entry into public places, for us in Taraba, we are appealing to residents to come out and get vaccinated. We received 60,000 doses of Moderna vaccine last week and I want to appeal to residents to come out and get vaccinated to avoid the spread of the virus.”

In Cross River State, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu, said residents were already taking the vaccine, thus there would be no need to force them to take it.

Edu said, “We have asked people to take the vaccine and Cross Riverians are taking it. In the first phase, Cross River was the highest for covering the target population. We had over 117 per cent. We even exhausted our vaccine and could not get the vaccine to give people the second dose for eight weeks.

“So, there is no need to force them. As we speak now, over 60,000 Cross Riverians have taken the new vaccine brought to us and more are still taking it. In fact, we will soon exhaust what we have and we will need more. So, making it compulsory is not necessary.”

In Ogun State, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Tomi Coker, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, ruled out the option of barring persons who had not been vaccinated from its facilities.

Coker said, “Ogun State has experienced cooperation from residents who have engaged the vaccination campaign wholeheartedly. We are vaccinating over 7,000 individuals daily, so the situation in Ogun State does not require such restrictions.

“What I would like to encourage people to do is to wear their masks properly in public as this is still the most effective way of curtailing the spread of the virus while we continue the vaccination campaign which is planned to continue until the fourth quarter of next year.”

In Abia State, the Executive Director of the state Primary Healthcare Agency, Dr Chinagorom Adindu, said the residents of the state would take it as enlightenment campaign was ongoing.

He said, “At the moment, we have not considered that. Abians are highly literate and are willingly taking it. However, the state government has embarked on mass enlightenment to convince more residents to take the vaccine.”

Also, in Bauchi State, the Executive Chairman of the state Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Rilwan Mohammed, said the state had no plan to restrict people that had not been vaccinated from public facilities.

Mohammed, who is the Chairman of Contact and Surveillance Sub-Committee of the Task Force on COVID-19 in the state, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, said, “There is no plan on that; we have yet to discuss that at the committee level.

“My Chairman is the deputy governor and he has not said anything on that and we have not discussed it.”

In Osun State, the Special Adviser to Governor Adegboyega Oyetola on Public Health, Dr ‘Siji Olamiju, said with the way the virus was spreading, those planning to take stringent measures over vaccination might be justified.

In Edo State, for example, the state government, led by Governor Godwin Obaseki, had mandated people of the state to take the vaccine; warning that as from September 15, anyone who had not been vaccinated would not be allowed into public places such as banks and worship centres.

Despite the ex parte order granted by the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt restraining the governor from enforcing his order mandating all residents of the state to get vaccinated, people without proof of vaccination were prevented from entering the state secretariat on Wednesday.

Olamiju, however,  noted that residents of the state had been coming for vaccination.

Olamiju said, “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.”

In Ebonyi State, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Daniel Umezuruike, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Abakaliki on Friday, said it had a plan to enforce compulsory vaccination but it won’t do so now because a good number of the population had not been vaccinated.

Umezuruike said, “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. “

The Ondo State Government also said it would make vaccination compulsory as soon as the quantity of vaccine available was enough to go round.

The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, in an interview with one of our correspondents said the process of making the vaccination compulsory was ongoing.

He added, “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.” – Punch.

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