By Joseph Erunke, ABUJA
THE federal government has attributed what it referred to as ‘impressive decline in deaths arising from COVID-19 ‘ to the ongoing vaccinations in the country.
The government, however, joined Nigerians against complacency, saying the dreaded virus was still very much in the country, saying it mutates, making it more dangerous and deadly.
Speaking Friday evening in Abuja at the 2022 African Vaccination Week Award Ceremony, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, who explained that the ceremony was meant to “recognize those who have made remarkable contributions towards immunization in Nigeria’”, lamented that:”Overcoming the misconceptions that follows vaccination has indeed been a real battle over the years.”
Mustapha said, “While it is safe to mention that the impressive decline in deaths arising from COVID-19 is as a result of the ongoing vaccination, we should not rest on our oars as the virus is still very much with us and as we know , it mutates, making it more dangerous and deadly.”
He expressed happiness that government’s desperate efforts at tackling the pandemic, one of which began with a series of engagement with stakeholders and partners across the country down to the grassroot level, trying to correct misconceptions and promote the vaccine uptake among the people, had yielded positive result .
He thanked all those who contributed tremendously to eradicate the disease.
“Our traditional and religious leaders, who are our community gatekeepers, were not left out in the struggle. They invested their energy and time in mobilizing the communities for the uptake of vaccines. Our health workers, some of whom we have lost along the way (May the souls of the departed rest in peace), were relentless and moved around the communities, from house to house to ensure that every eligible child receive vaccines and are protected against vaccine preventable diseases,” he said.
Noting that,”We are here gathered today to reward excellent performance by individuals and states in the country who have ensured that vaccination exercises in their states remain a priority,”the SGF urged Nigerians to encourage all around them to get vaccinated.
“We must, as a matter of priority, continue observing the non-pharmaceutical measures of wearing mask, keep physical distance, sanitize, or wash our hands regularly until we have vaccinated at least 70% of eligible Nigerians to achieve herd immunity and return to our normal way of life,” he said.
He called awardees “to see it as appreciation for a job well done and also as motivation for greater performance.”
Speaking also at the event, Minister of Health,Osagie Ehanire, explained that the event which was organized by the World Health Organization,WHO,was “aimed at raising awareness of the value of vaccines and immunization and highlighting the actions required to counter vaccine- preventable diseases.”
“In the particular case of Nigeria, the celebration symbolizes our efforts at eradicating preventable diseases over the years and reminds us of the need to continue the struggle through innovative strategies to safeguard the health of our people,” he said.
According to him, “In the spirit of supporting and promoting the current vaccination efforts in Nigeria, Awards for Improved Immunization Performances would be given to outstanding states to mark this celebration.”
“It would be recalled that as part of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health in November 2021 launched the SCALES Strategy to ramp up the uptake of the COVID- 19 vaccine integrated with other PHC services in the country.
“We would also be recognizing outstanding states along with their health workers and encouraging them and other states to put in more effort even as the approach is being upgraded.
“To this end, a proper evaluation of each state of the federation including the FCT has been made and the overall best state for COVID-19 Vaccination and Routine Immunization for each zone has been selected for the awards. I wish to congratulate the winners in advance and join them to exert more effort in order to rid the country of the COVID-19 pandemic as soon as possible,”he said
He spoke further: “With the integration of other PHC services with the COVID-19 vaccination, it is clear that our task is not limited to eradicating COVID-19 alone but other vaccine-preventable diseases as well. In line with the integration strategy, parents who go for COVID-19 vaccination are encouraged to go along with their children and have them vaccinated against childhood diseases like yellow fever, polio, pneumonia, measles, tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis B, tetanus , Hib, and meningitis.
“Due to this strategy, progress is being made on all fronts. Over 40 million eligible persons in Nigeria have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Recorded achievements in routine immunization have also been impressive. This means that with sustained efforts, COVID-19 and other child-killer diseases will soon become a thing of the past in the country.
“While we are glad that Nigeria is ranked among the high-performing countries in terms of COVID-19 vaccine rollout due to our innovative strategies, we can not but acknowledge the fact that we still have a lot of work to do. The current vaccination rate of 38% fully vaccinated eligible population across the country is insufficient. We must continue to put in more effort.”
On his part, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, explained that,”We have set aside a day like this to recognize and reward states and individuals, who have distinguished themselves with the highest qualities and best practices in providing technical and programmatic support on the implementation of primary healthcare services to Nigerians, particularly with respect to COVID-19 vaccination and routine immunization.”
”It is also a day to physically meet friends and colleagues for mutual reflections and celebration of our collaborative efforts”,he said, adding that:”Our history in the last two years has been inundated with the challenges of COVID-19 emergency, even as we were battling through to eradicate circulating variant polio virus, monkey pox and improve uptake of primary health care services in the country. “
“We may not be able to satisfactorily reward those who will be receiving awards today, or adequately cover everyone who deserves to be rewarded, but I can assure you that, in all intent, we recognize and are sincerely thankful to everyone because we know that no matter how big a tree might be, it cannot make a forest alone. In one way or the other someone who is not receiving an award today has also contributed to the emergence of another who is receiving an award here today,” he said.
He spoke further: “We pride ourselves in the progress we have made as a country in reaching 41,993,566 eligible persons with COVID-19 vaccines as of today 26th August 2022. About 29,653,312 of these persons are fully vaccinated, while others are either waiting for their due date for second dose or are in the list of those who are hesitant of taking second dose. Of course, the struggle continues, and it is a matter of sworn trust that we protect the health of our people.
“It is not easy walking through the high-impact of misinformation and disinformation and getting people to willingly accept COVID-19 vaccine. To a lesser extent, we had same experience with polio immunization, but today we have been certified wild polio virus free! Even the emergence of the circulating variant polio virus has been significantly controlled in Nigeria!.”