Drastic times require drastic measures, so goes the popular saying. And one of the drastic measures being adopted by governments all over the world to combat the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic is mandating their citizens to be vaccinated. In Nigeria, the governments of Edo and Ondo states recently announced compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations for adults. Even though a competent court in Edo State has restrained the government from going ahead with its plan, controversy remains over the issue. The Federal Government is also said to be considering making COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for all civil servants. In view of these contentions, our reporter, Omolola Famodun, asked some Nigerians what they think of imposition of COVID-19 vaccination on citizen. Their views are presented below:
Individual consent very important – Wonte Matthew Ifeanyi
It is unethical to impose any medical intervention or procedure on any individual without their consent. The individual’s consent must be sought first. The populace shouldn’t be cajoled or manipulated into taking the vaccine by threatening to use the law against them. Also, Nigeria is a multicultural nation, with people of diverse religious and cultural beliefs. Every individual must be allowed to uphold and express their beliefs without undue interference.
Worthy of note also is the level of literacy in Nigeria. What percentage of the population is educated? What percentage of the population understands how vaccines work? What percentage of the population is aware and well sensitised on COVID-19? It would be wrong to sanction Nigerians for not taking COVID-19 vaccination.
Citizens’ fundamental rights must be respected – Favour Orena
Firstly, I’m not against the vaccines. But no government should sanction its citizens for what they choose to do with their bodies. I believe everyone has the right to either accept the vaccine or not. Inasmuch as the government is trying to put up measures to stop the spread of the virus, that shouldn’t be done at the expense of the fundamental human rights of the citizens, after all we are still in a democratic society. Even countries hosting major vaccine manufacturers still provide their citizens the freedom to choose whether to be vaccinated or not.
Secondly most people still do not know about these vaccines. So, instead of putting up sanctions, why not put up measures to educate the citizens on what the vaccine are and also the importance of taking them?
Compulsory vaccination means stirring the hornet’s nest – Pharm. Dennis Ekene Ugwuoke
Of course we should get vaccinated against the deadly and ravaging COVID-19 virus. But whether this should be made mandatory in the face of existing challenges is a whole new different debate. It opens up a hornet’s nest of questions pertaining to health, law, belief system, social solidarity, human rights, resources etc. And all the factors have to be given due consideration. Should the overall safety of the population supersede an individual’s human rights? Are there sufficient data to prove that the current vaccines are safe for the whole population, including pregnant women, children, and people with compromised immunity? What exactly is the percentage level of vaccine hesitancy in the country? Etc.
Vaccination, according to international human rights law must be based on the recipient’s free and informed consent. While this is not absolute, the existing context does not warrant otherwise. Interference in this may be justified, considering the “necessity to control the spreading of infectious diseases”.
Government should address concerns and allay fears -Blessing Iriagbonse Uba
No, Nigerians shouldn’t be sanctioned. That would be too stringent in getting the right thing done. Remember that citizens have their rights. COVID-19 has become a global health issue, necessitating the Federal Government to protect the health of its citizens through vaccination. Instead of sanctioning, issues bothering individuals and causing vaccine hesitancy should be addressed, instead of coercing citizens into getting vaccinated.
There should be proper education of Nigerians, exposing them to the benefits of being vaccinated. Being vaccinated does not only protect you as an individual but the community at large (including family and friends). The fears of individuals not accessing vaccines should be addressed, so that again their confidence can be regained as regards getting vaccinated.
Also, the Federal Government should please increase vaccination centres within the countries (by including more religious places, markets, town halls, offices and other public spaces). Increased accessibility to vaccination centres would definitely increase the number of individuals that would get vaccinated.
Nigerians should be convinced, not coerced- Greatman Adiela Owhor
I believe the focus should not be on coercion but on conviction. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified vaccine hesitancy as a threat to achieving herd immunity. Vaccine hesitancy can be caused by a lack of trust regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, which may be seen even among health workers inclusive. Concerns about the fast-tracked discovery and preparation of these vaccines, coupled with the several conspiracy theories prior to the introduction of any vaccine, prevent vaccine reception.
So, rather than creating sanctions, I recommend that the government should work with the media, international bodies and health agencies to communicate accurate information about the vaccines they want the citizens to receive. Possibly, when the citizens realise the value and trust the role these vaccines will play in the pandemic, a resultant effect would be vaccine acceptance.
Nigeria is already in a sensitive state, sanctions will only further convince the masses about conspiracy theories they must have been nursing.
Awareness should be taken into serious consideration – Ebere Angela Okoli
It is true that mandatory vaccination has improved the health situation in several countries; but it is also true that the Nigerian law gives individuals the right to refuse a treatment, even if it is to the detriment of the individual’s health, thereby making it illegal to impose this on the citizens. It is however, relevant that government should employ measures, in partnership with health authorities, to provide scientific explanations as well as simple and easy to understand information which shows that the vaccine is safe. Making vaccinations compulsory is not the only way to improve vaccination rate in the country