COVID-19: Obaseki’s War Against Vaccine Hesitancy

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The Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, has made it clear to residents of the state that those who refuse to make themselves available for the COVID-19 vaccination exercise will be denied access to public places.

The governor gave the directive amidst the ravaging spike of a third wave that has led to many deaths in the state. Unfortunately, the governor’s effort at safeguarding the health of his people is being misunderstood by a section of the public, with some people actually taking the state government to court.

On his part, the governor has repeatedly stated that it has never been the state government’s plan to coerce any citizen into taking the vaccine. Its major concern, according the governor, is to ensure the health and safety of its citizens.

Mr Godwin Obaseki

Some analysts have nevertheless lauded the efforts of the state government in curbing the spread of the virus, through what they term a forward-thinking approach to tackling the pandemic.

While a High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has directed the Edo State Government to maintain the status quo on the purported compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for citizens, the government has swiftly reacted to clear the air on the seeming misconception of its intentions.

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“The attention of Edo government has been drawn to an order by a High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers directing government to maintain the status quo on the purported compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for citizens. To the best of our knowledge, the order is, at best, speculative and preemptive, as the scheduled date for the commencement of enforcement of the directive is the second week of September. We want to reiterate that our directive on vaccination stands”, Obaseki said.

A group of pastors have also taken to the streets of Benin City, protesting what they described as the state government’s obnoxious directive to citizens not to visit public places, especially churches, without proof of vaccination.

The action of this group has not come as a surprise as some popular clerics had, in the recent past, urged their members not to take the vaccine.

Pastor David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church was vocal in the campaign for a boycott of the vaccine. The prosperity preacher also said he can be consulted on how to deal with the virus. He made these submissions during his ministry’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

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“Let me warn you against this deadly thing circulated around the country because it has not been duly tested. An elder of this church, who works with the World Health Organisation, confirmed this, thanking me for always speaking the truth about the authenticity of the COVID-19 vaccine”, he had said.

Unfortunately, the medical sciences do not thrive on the unorthodoxy of spiritual claims and clerical pontifications. Thus, the safest option for law-abiding citizens is to cooperate with their government in its efforts to stem the tide of the havoc-wreaking virus which does not respect religion or anointing.

While the white evangelicals in America and the religious nationalists in Africa continue to believe that they are children of God and that their Father in Heaven will protect them from all infirmities, they forget that their mindsets are as contagious as the virus itself. The implication is that they pose a major threat to the universal vaccination process as other uninformed people would want to tow their line. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has to find a way to handle the excesses of this group, owing to the population their followers.

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The WHO, the federal government, international development agencies and all well-meaning humanitarian organisations should lend their voices to the clamour for vaccination all over the world. Before the discovery of the vaccines, the virus had ravaged many countries, leaving in its trail deaths in millions.

It is therefore imperative to note here that the position of the Edo State Government, as echoed by Governor Godwin Obaseki, is in the best interest of the citizens. While not supporting any action that would lead to the violation of citizens’ rights, the judiciary should apply wisdom in handling matters that pertain to human health. Should the protection of fundamental human rights translate to creating the enabling environment for COVID-19 to thrive?

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