Stakeholders in Nigeria’s health sector have called on citizens to accept and take COVID-19 vaccines authorized by international health agencies to achieve herd immunity against the virus. This was the consensus reached at the end of a knowledge-sharing event for the “Accelerating Equitable Access, Acceptance, and Uptake of COVID-19 Vaccines (ACCESS)” in Abuja on Thursday.
Isah Vatsa, the Executive Secretary of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Primary Health Care Board, emphasized that the country must vaccinate at least 70 percent of the eligible population to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19. To achieve this, he called on all stakeholders in the sector to collaborate and put in place strategies to reach eligible persons with the vaccines.
“Today, we are just about 60.1 percent as against our target of 70 percent. Though this 60.1 percent is nationwide, if you come down to different states, we have those who are still at 54 percent, some are at 60 percent, and others 70 percent,” Vatsa said. He added that some states like Nasarawa have vaccinated 100 percent of the population, but FCT has only vaccinated about 50 percent of its eligible population against the virus.
The event, organized by Pathfinder International with support from the MacArthur Foundation, had the theme “Delivering Hope: Advancing Access and Quality in COVID-19 Vaccination.” It aimed to demonstrate the value of partnerships in strengthening systems for health security.
Amina Dorayi, the Country Director of Pathfinder International, emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much around, and Nigerians must protect themselves against the virus by taking recommended doses of the vaccines. She warned that there are various variants of the virus, hence critical stakeholders must sustain the observance of COVID-19 protocols in the country to conquer these variants.
“Today, the world is struggling with the new Delta variant, and if we don’t take appropriate action, we may end up having a new variant that the vaccines may not be able to protect us against,” Dorayi said.
Ms. Dorayi explained that The Covid ACCESS project was aimed at addressing vaccine hesitancy, building trust, and ensuring equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Kano, Kaduna, and FCT. She said the organization worked with religious and community leaders and other resource persons to disseminate the correct information about COVID-19 to the community.
According to her, Pathfinder International implemented the project in collaboration with Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria (PPFN), Nigerian Interfaith Action Association (NIFAA), Vaccine Network for Disease Control (VNDC), and Sapphital Learning Limited.
“By using a grassroots approach, the Covid ACCESS project has been able to reach some of the most remote and underserved communities in Nigeria. Through our efforts, we have been able to build trust in the vaccines, and more people are coming forward to get vaccinated,” Dorayi added.
Nigeria has so far recorded 259,951 COVID-19 cases and 3,155 deaths, according to data published by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). It is essential to note that the COVID-19 pandemic is still a global health crisis, and everyone must play their part in fighting the virus by getting vaccinated and adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
The ACCESS event was attended by various stakeholders in the health sector, including representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO’s Nigeria Representative, highlighted the importance of vaccine equity, stating that “we must ensure that every eligible person has access to the vaccine, regardless of their socioeconomic status.”