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Vaccine apathy drops as price rises in Lagos

Despite working at the largest tertiary healthcare facility in Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos, John still held a tight grip on his reservations about taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

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His primary concern like most was developing side effects from the Oxford-University-developed AstraZeneca vaccine. But he threw that behind him a week after interacting with colleagues who had been vaccinated and staying fit.

Thousands of Lagos residents like John are increasingly opening up to vaccination, with some motivated by the incentive of international travel access. Those vaccinated could escape restriction hitches likely to be imposed for entrants in some countries.

Five local government areas in Lagos State – Eti-Osa, Ikeja, Lagos Mainland, Alimosho, and Kosofe topped the state’s vaccination chart as 4,770 people in Eti-Osa received jabs, the highest turnout as of March 19.

In Ikeja, 4,262 have been vaccinated, 4,191 in Lagos Mainland, 3,818 in Alimosho, and 3,513 in Kosofe.

Eti-Osa, a highbrow vicinity leading the immunity race, happens to be the spot that accounts for the highest community infection rate of 27 percent in the state as of January.

The laggards are Ibeju-Lekki with 852 people vaccinated, Badagry 1,073, Agege 1,086, Amuwo Odofin 1,230, and Apapa, 1,289.

At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) where BusinessDay met John, three vaccination spots were run concurrently at Hall 36, Human Resource Building, and Child Survival Unit, with priority for staff members.

The process follows a schedule that has different departments catered to one after the other. After getting the jabs in arms, a 15-minute window of waiting is enforced to note possible reactions or side effects.

The vaccination comes with a promise of a second dose for full immunity by June, three months later.

“Because of the reaction from other countries concerned about blood clotting, people were scared. I was too. But after our chief medical director, head of department and secretary have taken it, I don’t see any problem,” John told BusinessDay at the visit.

“People should take it and play their part in beating the pandemic.”

Outside medical environments such as LUTH, BusinessDay’s observation of two other sites at Palm Avenue Primary Healthcare Centre, Mushin, and CMS Primary Healthcare Centre, Bariga, Shomolu, shows interest in vaccination is spreading among the people in general.

A week after Foluso Oyewole, medical officer, Bariga LCDA, began coordinating vaccination of nearly 150 daily, she has seen more people with just basic concern for protection pleading to be vaccinated.

She has not been able to turn them down but uses a wait-or-leave approach. This is to cut the numbers and buy more time to prioritise frontline health and security officers, religious and traditional rulers, press members, teachers and bankers.

Other arrangements are made for eligible enrolees who cannot leave their duty posts such as in private hospitals or police stations.

“We turned ineligible participants back at first. But when they kept begging, we gave a condition to wait till later in the evening before they are attended to. Some leave while some stay,” she said.

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But in the middle of this growing interest, doubts still linger in people over getting seriously ill or acquiring long-term effects after vaccination.

A BusinessDay poll asking why people have not been vaccinated had 36 out 63 participants, 57 percent pick concern over vaccine safety as their reason. 23 participants said they lacked access while 3 people said their religion did not permit it.

At Palm Avenue PHC where a single site records nearly 200 doses administered daily, Wale Akeredolu, medical officer, Mushin Local Government Area, told BusinessDay that key opinion and religious leaders had been encouraged to get jabs “as a demonstration to people that the vaccination is not meant to render them useless or put chips in their bodies.”

However, the data capturing part of the vaccination procedure has been slowing the possibility of getting more jabs in arms.

Oyewole said the national plan for vaccination only allowed one point of data capturing per site, meaning they can only do so much in just a day.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, in the 19-member nations surveyed by the Africa Centre for Disease Control, 91 percent of the people surveyed in Morocco were most interested in receiving the vaccines while Tunisia and Cameroon had the lowest number of people, at 35 percent.

The report disclosed levels of acceptability in other countries as follows: South Africa (61%), Zimbabwe (61%), Nigeria (72%), Zambia (53%), Mozambique (75%), Egypt (78%), Kenya (59%), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (52%).

This was shown as part of the findings of a report released by the Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to Covid-19 (PERC) Consortium.

The consortium is made up of public health organisations such as the Africa Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention; Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies; the World Health Organisation; the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team; the World Economic Forum and private sector firms such as market research company, Ipsos.

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