With about 19 percent of Nigeria’s total population vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines, Private Sector Health Alliance, PSHAN, has blamed vaccine hesitancy as major factor why the country has failed to record optimal vaccination rates as well as achieve herd immunity.
Meanwhile, PSHAN in Lagos signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, with one of the leading Pharmaceutical companies, Sanofi to carry out a study entitled: ‘COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Assessment in Nigeria (C19-VHAN) aimed at assessing factors responsible for vaccine hesitancy in the country. Speaking during the official signing of the agreement in Lagos, PSHAN’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Tinuola Akinbolagbe, who lamented the impact of COVID-19 noted that the impact of the pandemic extends beyond individual health to human health, human capital and economy in general.
While noting the dangers of vaccine hesitancy if not tackled, Akinbolagbe said it is estimated that four out of 10 Nigerians are unwilling to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Vaccine hesitancy is compounded by several complex and context specific factors which vary across time, place and vaccines, misinformation, misconceptions, illiteracy, ignorance, limited supplies, logistical issues and an underlying suspicion of authorities.”
Stating that PSHAN and Sanofi has joined efforts and resources to run an evidence-based study, she said the study is designed to provide informed data required to aid various initiatives, programs, policies, and interventions currently in place to scale up the vaccination rate in the country.
PSHAN will undertake the 10-month study with the support of Sanofi’s resources and expertise in vaccines and health actors seeking to design awareness campaigns and other interventions to improve vaccine acceptance will find the results of the research guiding.
Noting that vaccine hesitancy was a delay or refusal to accept vaccination, sher said:”When we first started vaccination in Nigeria, demand was high that people were bribing to get it. Now we have vaccines flushed all over the place but people are not taking them. We have to find the reason. We thank Sanofi for collaborating with PSHAN,” Akinbolagbe.
Quoting data from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Akinbolagbe said 16.9 percent of Nigeria’s population has been partially vaccinated. 13.3 percent are fully vaccinated while 0.4 percent has received booster doses. Nigeria has received close to 116 million doses of vaccines in total supply, sufficient to fully 58 million people. However, approximately 29 million have received complete vaccination.
She lamented that the failure to address hesitancy has hampered initiatives such as the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund programme to vaccinate one million Nigerians by 2022.
She noted that internationally, the development and widespread administration of COVID-19 vaccine had greatly improved the outlook with decreased incidence of the virus, decreased severity of cases and associated deaths.
According to her, “In Nigeria, though we have made considerable progress, with the NPHCDA working in tandem with developmental partners, currently, we have just over 10 per cent of the total population having had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The largest, single factor which prevents Nigeria from recording optimal vaccination rates and associated herd immunity, is vaccine hesitancy.
“Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has been severe. In Nigeria, it is widely believed that our incidence data was under-reported with high probability that many cases went undetected due to limited access to healthcare services.
“It is pertinent to note that the impact of the pandemic extends beyond individual health to public health, human capital and in a broad sense, the overall economic outlook which was greatly affected by the lockdowns and travel restrictions.”
Speaking, General Manager and Country Lead, Sanofi, Mr. Oluwale Akinbowale, tasked the parties on the initiative, adding that, they should ensure it has a sustainability framework lasting up to five or 10 years. This, he said, will result in a multiplier effect and impact more Nigerians.
“For us, healthcare is a shared responsibility and we believe that we have to work together with multiple stakeholders to address different barriers along the healthcare journey of Nigerians. We believe PSHAN will be able to help us understand why we have a lot of hesitancy. We are supporting the exercise. It’s an independent project of PSHAN but our responsibility is to support PSHAN with resources to achieve this including our expertise in vaccines.”
Speaking, Sanofi’s Head of Vaccines Public Affairs, Alejandra Martinez, commended the partnership, adding that the outcome of the study would beneficial to other African countries that are having similar challenge like Nigeria.
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