A Civil Society Organisation, CSO, Yiaga Africa, on Monday, demanded effective monitoring and evaluation of COVID-19 vaccination and also strengthening the nation’s health sector.
This was stated by the Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, while speaking on the need for the vaccination to be guided by certain principles that would bring about the inclusion of all citizens in the process.
Mbamalu said: “The conversation is important to ensure that the whole process of vaccination is guided by certain principles and every aspect of society is catered for. In the implementation of vaccines in Nigeria, we need to deploy effective monitoring and evaluation systems that will help document how well we have done, document the learning, and how we can improve on the system.
“Beyond just the vaccination, there is a need to look at how to strengthen the health sector in Nigeria”.
Earlier, Director of Center of Legislative Engagement, Yiaga Africa, Dr Ernest Ereke, while presenting Yiaga Africa’s policy brief on COVID-19 vaccine management in Nigeria, disclosed that the invention of vaccine is a pivotal moment in the global battle against the COVID-19 pandemic but there is also concern that there is a global challenge in the access to the vaccine.
According to Ereke inequitable distribution of vaccines globally accentuates the divide between the global north and global south saying this will weaken and hamper the fight against the global pandemic because the world is more linked together like never before.
However, stakeholders especially doctors and other healthcare practitioners have raised concerns over alleged deviation from what they described as the original COVID-19 vaccination plan designed after the arrival of the about 4 million Astrazeneca vaccine into Nigeria during a webinar organized by Yiaga Africa to look at emerging issues and challenges in the cause of vaccine distribution and to proffer solutions.
The Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, National Committee on Infectious Diseases, Dr Sanusi Muhammed, said the initial plan of vaccinating health workers, frontline workers, those with higher morbidity and mortality rate is not being followed at the ongoing vaccination of citizens across the country.
According to Dr Sanusi, the idea of vaccinating frontline health workers is because they are at higher risks due to incessant contact with patients.
He further stated that they have to be protected first, so that they can be confident to provide healthcare and services.
He said “We need to stick to the vaccination plan so that even if the vaccine doesn’t go round, those with higher risk, elderly and those with high morbidity and mortality are prevented from getting infected and that will reduce the burden of the disease and mortality.”
On the issue of misinformation and misconception raised in the policy brief released by Yiaga Africa, Dr Sanusi said, the misconception about the COVID-19 vaccine is not only in Nigeria but all over the world with many countries stopping the vaccine based on rumors and non-scientific basis.
However, he said many countries have since backtracked on their earlier decision to suspend the process as they are now coming to join the bandwagon with over 50 million people being vaccinated across the world so far.
He called on the review of Nigeria’s health indices and the need for the government to declare a state of emergency in not just the security but the health sector as well, saying COVID-19 exposed health systems across the world.
“A lot of things have to be put in place. Issue of brain drain, issue remuneration of health workers, Nigeria is one of the countries paying the least. Nigeria is paying less than $10 (N5, 000) as health hazard allowances.
“This has been the case with previous diseases like Ebola, and Lassa fever, but COVID-19 has exposed this issue even more and shows that we need to do more in terms of manpower, infrastructure, and also the basic lifesaving”, he said.
He (Sanusi) also urged the National Assembly to speed up the passage of the Infectious Diseases Bill saying, the legislation will enhance control over what is happening in the country.
“You cannot allow political office holders to make ill-informed decisions with the lives of the people or masses of a state or LGA because of federalism or because he has the power to do so”, he stated.
Speaking in the same vein, according to the Former National Chairman, NMA, Health Advocacy Committee, Dr Henry Ewunonu, citizens who are neither health workers nor elderly, received the COVID-19 vaccine during the first week of vaccination.
Ewunonu urged the government to be transparent and accountable in a bid to increase private sector support saying, “Nigeria must not give the private sector reasons to back out or doubt if whatever they are doing is being appreciated.”
He also decried the fact that he is yet to see legislation, executive order or policy, prohibiting sharp practices in the course of administering the COVID-19 vaccine to the population.
However, he recommended strict punishment to any indiscipline health personnel who bridges the policy, which he reported alleged sharp practices at the Falomo Police Clinic in Lagos.