The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has rejected what it described as arbitrary stigmatisation of Nigerians because of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Therefore, the NGF has urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) to address the discriminatory attitude of some countries against Nigerians.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency has revealed that 3.5 million eligible Nigerians had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
This is as the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has urged all students yet to be vaccinated to take advantage of the mass vaccination to receive their jab in order to protect themselves and their campuses.
In a statement, the NGF Chairman and Governor of Ekiti, Dr. Kayode Fayemi argued that Canada and the United Kingdom hastily included Nigeria among the Omicron present countries, an action viewed by the governors as precipitate, unfair and discriminatory.
According to Fayemi, “Omicron still remains relatively unknown globally as it is not yet clear whether it is more transmissible from person to person compared to other variants including Delta.
“It is very discouraging to note that there are several countries that have reported cases of Omicron similar to or higher than Nigeria’s, that have not been banned from entry to the UK and/Canada.”
He said confirmed Omicron cases as at December 3rd, across some countries were: Nigeria (3 ); Australia (7); Brazil (3); Germany (9) Israel(4); Italy (9) & Netherlands(16), noting that there were yet to be evidence that harsh, blanket travel bans would protect the countries that impose them.
In view of this, he said, “It is ironical that this ban comes at a time when the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, has advised that “rational proportional risk reduction measures” be taken by countries such as screening passengers prior to departure and/or upon arrival in a country, or enforcing a quarantine period.”
The NGF therefore urged the WHO to intervene in the matter by setting uniform standards that are acceptable to all for banning countries across the globe.
Fayemi therefore said, “As we know, vaccine hesitancy is quite high and for many reasons including disruptive announcements like this which could exacerbate distrust of the vaccine and heighten hesitancy.
“World leaders and stakeholders in the West need to remember that with the COVID-19 pandemic, until everyone is free, no one is free. Variants will continue to appear and spread across the globe as long as global herd immunity has not been achieved.
“We call on countries to be guided by science and fairness in setting the criteria for updating their red list. We encourage both public and private stakeholders to continue to support vaccination efforts and address hesitancy. We encourage Nigerians not to be discouraged and to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” he advised.
The chairman of the governors said, “as a platform for the 36 democratically elected governors of the country, the NGF believes it reserves the right to speak for its people. Besides, the NGF was proactive and ahead in the Polio eradication program in Nigeria, in the country’s response to the Ebola virus, and lately in the response against the corona virus pandemic”.
He said that health was one of the core mandate areas of the governors’ forum, “and has remained an item on its meeting agenda in the past several months, hence the need to speak against the discriminatory attitude of stigmatisation.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, spoke at an awareness programme for students on COVID-19 vaccine organised by the NANS at the University of Abuja.
Represented by the Director, Disease Control and Immunisation, Bassey Okposen, the NPHCDA boss said 6.6 million Nigerians had taken first dose while 3.5 million had been fully vaccinated against the virus.
He said the federal government had adequate doses of vaccines in store to cover a large percentage of the population, noting that the country is awaiting about 57 million doses of the vaccine.
Shuaibu explained the country needs to vaccinate about 70 per cent of the overall population to reach herd immunity against the virus.
“6.6 million Nigerians that has taken first dose. Another 3.5 million of the figure has taken the second dose. We are targeting 70 per cent because the current number is low.
“The risk this pose to the nation is that it would give chance for mutation of the virus. The virus mutates in an environment where the herd immunity is low. And for us as a nation, we have only achieved 3.5 million for the second dose which is very low. This is why mutation can happen so fast.
“The UK and few other governments has ban Nigeria. Though not that we cannot travel but when we get there, we have to quarantine for 10 days. The simple reason is that some of the cases of Omicron in UK, the travellers are from Nigeria. That is why they are taken safety precaution. It is not because of the vaccines we are using but because the cases they have for now are from Nigeria.
“We have more than enough vaccine in Nigeria for now. We also have a pool of vaccines almost 57million that are awaiting shipment. There is about 40million already in the country and we have secured about 90million doses.”
He urged students and unvaccinated to simply take their COVID-19 vaccine, stressing that it, “free, safe, and effective”
In his remarks, National President, NANS, Sunday Asefon, said the body had demonstrated acceptance and endorsement for the vaccine.
“When the surplus vaccine came in, they invited us. I, as the National President alongside Senate President, National Executive Council Members, and members of the National Secretariat of NANS had taken our first jab to boost students’ confidence in the vaccine.
“As a union, there is need for us to ensure that that the vaccination programme extends to all campuses. The welfare of our students is very paramount, hence we want all students to be vaccinated because we believe health is wealth. It is when you have good health you can have time study.
“We are encouraging our students to come out enmass and take their jab. Some bad notions should be corrected because the vaccine is safe. Students shouldn’t listen to the campaign of calumny. We need to join hands with the government to ensure that we reduce the virus. We cannot allow anything that will make our schools to be closed down”, he stated.