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Health agencies, commissioners frustrating COVID-19 vaccination in South-East – NPHCDA

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The Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, has lamented that the South-East region is lagging behind in COVID-19 vaccination.

Shuaib, who spoke on Wednesday during the South-East zone Primary Health Care and COVID-19 Vaccination Review meeting in Enugu, said the region was projected to vaccinate about 100,000 persons per day, but had an abysmal turnout of about 6,000 per day.

Apart from the disinformation about COVID-19 vaccination in the region, he said infighting between the executive secretaries of state primary health care development agencies in the South-East and their health commissioners over the disbursement of funds sent by the NPHCDA was causing a major setback for the programme.

He, however, warned executive secretaries of the state primary health care development agencies to stop sidelining the ministries of health in activities that concern COVID-19 vaccination and childhood immunisation.

“Executive secretaries must work with commissioners to improve COVID-19 vaccination and routine immunisation. The infighting between commissioners and executive secretaries is not helping the programme,” Shuaib stated.

He urged the people of the South-East to rise up and show leadership in COVID-19 vaccination like they had always done in such issues like childhood immunisation and other preventable diseases vaccination.

The NPHCDA boss stated, “The South-East is one of the zones that does exceptionally well when it comes to routine immunisation, which we also call childhood vaccination. But it’s not the case with COVID-19 vaccination. We understand that the Igbo are literate enough to understand that vaccination is protective.

“But we also know that because of the permeation of social media, especially in the South-East, where there’s a high rate of literacy. People look at the information going on on social media and get distracted.

“That is why we want to debunk all of this misinformation in the South-East so that people will have the correct information about what COVID-19 vaccination is all about.

“We want people to join us tomorrow (Thursday) and ask their questions. Today, however, we want to look at the barriers to vaccination.

“Vaccine hesitancy is a global problem. Even in Nigeria, we had to borrow from some of the measures that have been used, while contextualising these methods to address vaccine hesitancy.”

“By the same token, I feel pretty confident that one of the outcomes of this meeting today will be an opportunity to align behind the strategies that will help us to overcome vaccine hesitancy in the South-East.

“I also feel confident when I look around the South-East, I see public health experts, who are passionate about public health. I see people who have spent so many years doing the right things. I see people who are leaders not only in the health sector, but in all ramifications of the society.

“I know how COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the commerce and economic activities in the South-East.

“Today, we take determined steps on how we can overcome those barriers so that not only will we be able to achieve health immunity in the South-East, we will then be able to exit this pandemic so that all of the commerce and vibrant economic activities that take place in the South-East will now go back to normal so that we will begin to ask what is it that we did differently than led to this success.”

The Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was represented by his deputy, Cecelia Ezeilo, expressed optimism that with the ongoing review programme, the South-East would improve in COVID-19 vaccination.

The governor urged the PHCDA executive secretaries in the region to take the message to traditional rulers so as to educate their subjects to come out for vaccination.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, urged the people of South-East to ask themselves questions about vaccination.

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