By Funmilayo Adeyemi, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Stakeholders have identified mass vaccination of students as one of the ways to check the spread of COVID-19.
They, however, feared that it may run into hitch as a result of apathy occasioned by fake news and conspiracy theories against the vaccine.
They, therefore, called on government at all levels to create awareness on the benefits of taking the jab against coronavirus.
Dr Murtala Jibril, an Immunologist, Vaccinologist, said that vaccines provide wide protection against COVID-19.
He said that it is important that students and workers in the school environment get vaccinated and also adhere strictly to all the prescribed COVID-19 preventive measures and protocols.
Jibril who is a Senior Lecturer, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Bayero University, Kano, noted that a person can be infected yet not manifesting any symptoms.
Dr Olufemi Adeyemi, UNICEF Health Specialist, said that conspiracy theories had made people hesitant and negatively impacted their willingness to receive the vaccine.
Adeyemi, who is also in charge of the UNICEF Field Office, Enugu, spoke at a two-day media dialogue on “Demand Creation for COVID-19 Vaccines.”
He called on the public not to allow themselves to be misinformed about COVID-19 and the vaccines, adding that the vaccines are safe and the most effective way to manage the spread of the virus.
He added that efforts were being made by the Federal Government, UNICEF, and other development partners to ensure the spread of COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control.
“We, however, face serious challenges in the areas of public hesitancy, unwillingness, and conspiracies against the COVID-19 vaccines, making efforts of government, partners, and donors unreciprocated.’’
Similarly, Dr Obasi Chikezie of Community Medicine Department, Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT), said that the vaccine had helped to ensure prevention from the virus and achieve faster world containment of the virus.
Chikezie said that the vaccination would also ensure that every country was safe, as no country is safe until all countries vaccinated their citizens.
He, therefore, criticised the myths around COVID-19 vaccines, saying that those peddling conspiracy theories about the vaccines were persons who were not health experts and lacked knowledge about the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, no country is safe until every country vaccinates its citizens.
Dr Nwachukwu Ugwunna, Consultant, Community Health Physician, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu (UNTH), said that vaccination was the only way to get rid of the COVID-19 pandemic and not the vaccines.
Ugwunna stressed the need for the citizens to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of the disease.
He also said that the emergence of COVID-19 had put most developing countries under stress, hence the need to encourage citizens to take the vaccine.
Mr Ike Onyechere, Founder, Exam Ethics Marshals International (EEMI), an NGO, said the government must ensure that teachers and non-academic staff were vaccinated, as well as students when the appropriate versions of the drugs are made available.
Onyechere said the approach of incentives should be deployed as against sanctions in view of the argument that it was the right of every individual to decide whether or not to take the vaccine.
According to him, there is a need for government actions to be supported by the people. He also stressed the need for effective communication on the benefit of COVID-19 vaccination.
“A well-structured awareness campaign should be launched in every school under the direct supervision of government education agencies.
“The campaigns should also be targeted at parents to counter the effect of vaccine misinformation,” he said.
Mr Martins Onyedikachi, a Software Engineer said vaccines are usually the best way to keep children of school age free from infection especially during pandemics.
“You cannot control what diseases your child is exposed to or how bad the case may be when he or she gets infected.
“ Therefore, to build a protective wall around your family and community, children of school age must be protected from all forms of diseases through vaccination,’’ he said.
Mr John Adebayo, Chairman, Institute of Electrical Electronics Engineers Young Professionals (IEEE), on his part, reiterated the importance of strong partnership in order to tackle the spread of COVID-19.
Adebayo noted that the partnership and collaboration would boost government’s efforts in containing the COVID-19 transmission in the country.
“While appreciating government’s determination to flatten the curve and save life, the partnership is important to address the containment of COVID-19 as well as promote healthy initiatives,’’ he said.
A public affairs analyst, Mr Carl Umegboro, urged Nigerians to accept the COVID-19 vaccine.
Umegboro argued that it was contradictory for the public to have confidence in scientists on vaccines for other infectious diseases and drugs for treatment, but afraid of vaccines the same scientists produced for coronavirus.
“ It is undeniable that all, not some, of the conspiracy theorists, still submit their wives to the best specialist hospitals in the world during childbirths, and they allow the health experts perform their duties.
“So, if they could confidently submit themselves to health experts for medical treatments based on scientific researches and methods, why the uproars over vaccines produced also from scientific researches with requite details.
“Sadly, there are propaganda amid the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) data that unvaccinated face 11 times risk of death from delta variant, and nearly all COVID deaths are now among unvaccinated.’’
In order to continue to flatten the curve of COVID-19, mass vaccination is the answer, especially in schools.