…Task media, religious leaders on awareness, enlightenment
Intellectuals and stakeholders in the healthcare sector, including the Commissioner for Health and Chief of Staff to the Borno State Government, Prof. Isa Marte Hussaini; Prof. Ike Uzochukwu, former dean, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State; Prof. Mbang Femi-Oyewo, chairman, Board of Fellows of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria; Dr M. M. Zango, managing director, NNPC Clinic, and others have debunked all forms of misconceptions and myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, saying it is safe.
Speaking on Day 4 programme, of the ongoing Media Week on COVID-19, jointly organised by the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm) and Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Prof. Uzochukwu, the keynote speaker noted that vaccine hesitancy and outright anti-vaccination sentiment have become rife in recent time, with more members of the public questioning not only the efficacy of vaccines but their sources, safety standards and conspiracy theories.
According to the varsity don, COVID-19 is real and it kills, adding that some of the factors fueling wrong perceptions as well as hesitancy towards the vaccine are marital status, age and religious affiliations, saying the major factor fueling vaccine hesitancy is religious belief.
“Some other reasons people hesitate to take or accept COVID-19 vaccine are its safety and efficacy; the source of the vaccine; trust deficit; fear of genetic modification, doubt about COVID-19 existence; the way it was hastily produced; the fear about the mark of the beast and other conspiracy theories”, he said.
Speaking on the topic: “Drug abuse and misuse during the pandemic”, he asserted that drug abuse is one of the challenges the country is facing presently, especially during the pandemic, adding that there is no better time than now to talk about it as many resorted to abuse and misuse of drugs.
He emphasised the roles of pharmacists in the management of drugs, stating that they are the primary custodians of medicines, and as such, they have the responsibility to speak against drug abuse and misuse in society.
While speaking, Prof. Hussaini, who also doubles as the chairman of the occasion, noted that just like every other vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine help boosts the immunity and fight complications that may arise from contacts with infected persons, as the world awaits a permanent treatment and prophylaxis for the new strain of the disease, saying the only known way to combat COVID-19, for now, is through vaccination.
“This is the 21st century, and we are no longer in the 19th century, so the only globally accepted means of combating the virus is through the vaccine. Thus, anybody that is saying the opposite is only being economical with the truth, and this is not the era that we would be playing politics with people’s lives,” he said.
Earlier in his address, the chairman, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr Mustapha Isah, noted that the partnership between NAPharm and NGE, was well-conceived and worthy, saying when a nation is in trouble, everybody suffers, therefore the partnership came at the right time.
Also speaking, Prof. Femi-Oyewo, who was the moderator of the session urged people to embrace the vaccine and ensure that they receive the vaccine if they have not, while appealing to rumour mongers to stop spreading a false information about the vaccine, insisting that people should observe all safety protocols.
According to the erudite professor, who was the first dean, Faculty of Pharmacy, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, it is high time we separated myths from the reality and set the record straight by telling the truth about the virus. “As of today, vaccination is the only hope, so we should do away with rumour and myths making the rounds” she said.
In his address, Dr Zango, who was one of the panelists spoke about concerns around the vaccine, noting that, “the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks, as there is no known remedy for COVID-19 as at today, and according to the WHO and relevant government agencies, vaccination is crucial to prevent a third wave of the pandemic”.
Speaking in the same vein, another member of the panel, Pharm. Sanni Bello, called on traditional, religious leaders and other influencers in society to support the government in ensuring that people take the vaccine to help contain the spread of the virus, as there is no known herbal remedy recognised by the WHO to combat the virus yet.
While urging the media to do more in creating more awareness to dispel misconceptions around the vaccine, he, however, said that vaccination is not the end of the pandemic as all citizens must continue to adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as hand hygiene, use of face mask and maintaining physical distancing if the pandemic is to be controlled.
The President, NAPharm, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, also noted that myths and misinformation that cast doubt over the safety and efficacy of the vaccine can endanger lives, adding that the partnership between NAPharm and NGE was birthed to contribute its quota to the development of the healthcare sector, especially at this challenging period.
“Whatever we are saying about COVID-19, we have to be circumspect about it. In Nigeria today, COVID may not be the major priority, but COVID is real, and one day, the full story will be told, but what we are agitating about is that when the story is told, people should stay alive to witness it,” he said.
The vote of thanks with presentation of award plaques to the chairman, keynote speaker, the moderator and panelists was done by Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi, the chairman of the planning committee and vice-president of the Academy.