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Health News of Thursday, 25 November 2021


Coronavirus December 1 deadline: Only 3% eligible Nigerians fully vaccinated

Coronavirus vaccine administered Coronavirus vaccine administered

With less than a week to the December 1 deadline for Coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal civil servants, figures released, yesterday, by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), shows that a paltry three per cent of the eligible population have been fully vaccinated, despite assurances by government of the availability of sufficient vaccines.

Three states had earlier made it compulsory for workers to get vaccinated, failing which they would be denied access to public spaces and religious worship centres. The states are Edo, Kaduna and Ondo. While it had been a tepid enforcement of the mandate in Kaduna and Edo since November 1, Ondo last week extended the deadline for civil servants’ vaccination to December 31, 2021.

The dismal showing also falls short of the 50 per cent target the Federal Government had earlier set for itself to vaccinate 55 million residents by the end of January 2022, which is two months away. Government had always insisted it has enough vaccines and assured of flow of high quality vaccines from many sources to meet its target

On March 6, 2021, Nigeria began its Coronavirus vaccination drive in Abuja, but nearly nine months after, a total of 6,183,844 number of eligible persons have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the country as at Tuesday, November 23, representing only 5.5 per cent of the eligible population.

Out of the number, a total of 3,456,204 have received their second dose and are fully vaccinated and this represents only 3.1 per cent of the eligible population.

Of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos tops the chart of total vaccinated persons with 1,035,593 out of which fully vaccinated persons are 665,827.

This is followed in the top five rank by Ogun, 345,886 vaccinated and 168,364 fully vaccinated; Oyo, 321,884 vaccinated and 162,099 fully vaccinated; Kano, 229,178 vaccinated and 144,380 fully vaccinated; and Kaduna, 212,021 vaccinated and 132,706 fully vaccinated.

States on the bottom five are: Bayelsa, 39,826 vaccinated and 17,218 fully vaccinated; Ebonyi, 64,419 vaccinated and 31,106 fully vaccinated; Sokoto, 56,237 vaccinated and 40,761 fully vaccinated; Yobe, 62,024 vaccinated and 41,260 fully vaccinated; and Kogi, 80,754 vaccinated and 42,373 fully vaccinated.

Recall that the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on Coronavirus and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had announced that effective December 1, unvaccinated Federal Government workers won’t be allowed access into any public offices, as part of measures to contain the spread of the pandemic .

“All Federal Government employees are reminded that December 1 remains the deadline for all to show evidence of being vaccinated or a PCR Negative test result done 72 hours before being allowed into their offices,” he said.

The Federal Government on Monday again warned employees who love their jobs to go and get vaccinated before the deadline, insisting that its decision was in the best interest of Nigerians.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, observed that the Coronavirus vaccine mandate has become a global requirement and Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind in the fight against the pandemic.

While Ehanire said the Federal Ministry of Health is striving to attain herd immunity, “which we had calculated to be by vaccinating at least 70 per cent of our eligible population,” a paltry six per cent of eligible persons already vaccinated has demystified the insistence of vaccine mandate.

For instance, in the United States, where the mandate is also in vogue, more than 90 per cent of federal employees have had at least one Coronavirus vaccine dose, while 71 per cent of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated, after the mandate was imposed by President Joe Biden in September.

Lawyers are divided on the legality of the pronouncement vis-à-vis rights of citizens to privacy. While some said the Federal Government has no power to decree such orders without a legislative back up, threatening even to sue, others think it is in order and may be justified by the Quarantine Act.

Condemning the decision, the chairman, Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr. Monday O. Ubani, declared that there is no enabling substantive legislation that makes COVID-19 vaccination compulsory.

In the absence of any such law, he explained, any policy statement from the government that lacks legal backing, especially when it is meant to take away guaranteed rights of citizens, is illogical, unlawful, null and void.

According to Ubani, the punishment of denial of access to office by the directive is a clear violation of the contractual terms of employment, and secondly a restriction to freedom of liberty and movement guaranteed under chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

Also criticising the decision, human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), described it as being “legally and constitutionally impermissible.

“It’s a matter of choice. The Constitution in Section 37 guarantees every citizen the right to private and family life, including their correspondences, discussions, etc. The section prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment, by guaranteeing the right to dignity of the human person.

“This means you cannot compel a person to take vaccination against his/her personal wish and will. Intrusion into one’s body is a matter of personal choice. It is like being forced to take a particular drug even when the taker insists he is allergic to such,” he argued.

Ozekhome charged any Nigerian forced to take the vaccine to go court for redress.