FG, Sultan, Others Back AstraZeneca Vaccine

NEWS DIGEST – The Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, has reaffirmed confidence in the Federal Government’s decision to continue the vaccination of Nigerians with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, noting that it remains the only tool to get out of the pandemic.

He further urged religious and traditional leaders to enlighten their followers on the reality of COVID-19 pandemic and the benefits of getting vaccinated.

This is coming hours after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) finalised its investigation of suspicion of blood clot associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. It clearly stated that countries can resume the use of the vaccine as its investigation has not linked the random cases of blood clotting with the AstraZeneca vaccination.

European countries are now reversing their temporary suspension of use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and beginning the vaccination of their citizens.

France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced he will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, Friday. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, also announced he will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, Friday.

The Head of the EMA, Emer Cooke, has personally and publicly confirmed that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective.

Speaking during the sensitisation of Muslim scholars and Imams on COVID-19 vaccination, yesterday in Abuja, organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in collaboration with the NSCIA, Abubakar said: “As Muslims, we know leaders must consult before taking decisions on behalf of those they are leading.

This morning’s programme is in furtherance of that consultation because the time we met last time till yesterday, I think there was still more confusion as regards the vaccine, its efficacy, the various conspiracy theories that we have been hearing or seeing on pages of media.

“Even though some European countries suspended the use of the vaccine, some hours ago, about 30 hours ago, the same countries are going back to the use of those vaccines.

“The vaccine has been rolled out in Nigeria in some states and some states are yet to roll out the vaccine. Some don’t even believe that there is COVID-19. But we are all here to discuss some of those issues.

“We have seen Mr. President publicly take the vaccine, the Vice President and others, and we expect to see more political leaders coming out openly to take the vaccine.

All political leaders must take the vaccine first before the common man on the street because they are our leaders and they have to be protected first.

They have to be saved first from any pandemic. It is when they are strong, healthy, and alive that they will now take our country to greater heights.

“There are those who do not believe in the vaccine or that COVID-19 even exists, but we believe because we have lost many of our close friends and family members.

It is very important for us in advocating letting people know that yes COVID-19 is there and yes there is a possibility of getting out of it. But it is left for you to act on it,” he said.

He added: “It is left for you to want to take the vaccine because we will not force you. We only advise you and try to appeal to you as we did with the polio vaccine decades ago and today we are polio-free.”

The Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, in his address, said: “Today we are coming out fresh from an unnecessary controversy that trailed the introduction of AstraZeneca globally, especially the communications coming out of Europe about the linkage between AstraZeneca vaccination and blood clotting.

While up to 20 countries paused the vaccination as a precautionary measure, for the common man in Nigeria, it is difficult to understand what the difference is between stopping the vaccination and pausing vaccinations as a precautionary measure.

“The good news is that yesterday, the umbrella organisation that is responsible for regulating vaccine and immunisation in Europe – the European Medicines Agency, clearly finalised their investigation and came out with a report yesterday that it is safe to take AstraZeneca and that there has been no cause and effect relationship between vaccination with AstraZeneca and the blood clotting disorders.

That is a very massive and welcomed development.”

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, added: “With this vaccine the good effects are clear in that it protects us from infection.

Because it is new, people are on the alert for any effects – even if they sneeze, they probably will connect it to the vaccine.

So, when out of abundance of caution, authorities decide to slow down on the use of the vaccine and watch, it is the normal thing also.”

Also, the Director-General of the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, has assured Nigerians that the Astrazeneca vaccine is safe.

He spoke in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital while commissioning the Molecular Laboratory at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital’s Viral Studies, Research, Treatment and Control Centre.

The center was formerly known as the Southeast Virology Centre. He said: “I have taken the vaccine myself. I am standing here right now in front of you. I took it two weeks ago and every member of the front line staff of the NCDC has taken the vaccine”.

“We are confident that this vaccine will be a game changer as we respond to this outbreak in Nigeria”, he said.

The NCDC DG also accused some religious fanatics of hypocrisy and double standard on the vaccine.

The Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Emeka Onwe Ọgah, said 21 COVID-19 patients died between December 2020 and March 2021.