By Joy Odor
Nasarawa State Government has flagged off the mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19, aimed at rapidly increasing the number of fully vaccinated residents of the state.
Nasarawa State governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, flagged off the campaign at a ceremony that held in the premises of the state infectious diseases and research diagnostic centre, in Lafia, on Friday.
Against the threat of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor said his administration has continued to evolve measures towards the control and containment of the spread of the virus among others.
According to Engineer Sule, even though the state revieved lots of commendations for the priative steps and initiatives taken to curtail the spread of the virus, the state government has no choice but to take all the steps already taken mostly because of the state’s proximity to the FCT.
“Majority of the lower cadre working in Abuja are living in Nasarawa State. These are the people that are mostly espoused,” he stated.
He noted that, as a responsive government, his administration took proactive measures by rushing to complete and commission the state-of-the-art infectious diseases and research diagnostic centre, towards ensuring protection, as well as fighting the scourge ravaging the society.
The governor disclosed that, as part of the mass vaccination campaign, the state government will step down the vaccination campaign across schools, markets, hospitals, as well as ensure all civil servants in the state take full vaccination against the virus.
“I’m happy that the Head of Service is here. As you are paying salaries on Monday, maybe you can say anybody who has not taken the vaccination may not recieve his or her salary, ” he added.
Engineer Sule emphasized that his administration is ready to take all the measures necessary in order to ensure that every resident of the state is vaccinated.
The governor reiterated that he was among the first to take the vaccination, calling on the people of the state to step up by taking the vaccination.
“In fact, I have taken the first and second dose and if you are ready to give me the third today, I’m ready to take that again,” he said.
He used the opportunity of the event to remind residents about the cholera outbreak that has so far affected over 100, 000 persons across the country, with several deaths also recorded.
As part of the proactive approach to curtailing the spread of cholera in the state, the governor appealed to the general public to avoid open defecation and unnecessary dumping of refuse along waterways.
“This will go a long way in mitigating the spread of cholera and other diseases in our communities,” the governor said.
Engineer Sule equally used the opportunity to commend both the state and national primary healthcare agencies for continuously working hard since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He explained that, Nasarawa State keyed into the Federal Government initiatives from the onset of the pandemic, constituting a COVID-19 task force under the leadership of the state deputy governor, Dr. Emmanuel Akabe and other professionals.
The governor further appreciated the Country Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF Chief of Health in Nigeria, as well as prominent sons and daughters of the state that attended the event.
Earlier, in a goodwill message, UNICEF Chief of Health in Nigeria, Dr. Eduardo Celades, said in spite of the negative health consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the world now has the most powerful tool that works in the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the UNICEF chief, COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective.
“People vaccinated is unlikely they will get severe COVID-19 pandemic. Most people admitted in hospitals from COVID-19 have not vaccinated,” he stated.
He pointed out that UNICEF being a leading agency in vaccine and vaccine management, is working with governments, states ministry of health, alongside other partners like the WHO and other global agencies, to make the vaccines available.
Dr. Celades disclosed that, so far, 33m doses have arrived Nigeria, with more being expected.
He however noted that, it is not enough to have the vaccines but that it must be administered, stressing the significance of the mass vaccination campaign.
“We need to work with traditional rulers, religious leaders, health workers, media in order to ramp up and increase the vaccination,” he said.
Also speaking, Executive Chairman of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaibu, noted that Nasarawa State has consistently been among the best performing states in the utilisation of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr Shuaibu described the mass vaccination campaign as a unique opportunity to get and achieve herd immunity, to control the pandemic and get Nasarawa State back on the fast track way to industrial and socioeconomic development that was being propelled by the Engineer Sule administration before the pandemic.
He disclosed that, so far, 6, 242, 224 people revieved the first dose of the vaccine across the country, while 3, 487, 298 people have received their second dose and are fully vaccinated.
“From the data, it’s clear that Nigeria still has a far road to go before it reach the target of vaccinating about 112m eligible people.
“According to the National Population Commission, about 15m persons are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination in Nasarawa State,” he stated.
Dr. Shuaibu explained that the state was only able to vaccinate 8.1 percent of eligible Nasarawa residents with the first dose and only 5.2 percent are fully vaccinated with the second dose.
He added that, in order to bridge the gap, the Federal Government is collaborating with state government, to expand vaccination sites in Nasarawa State, with COVID-19 vaccine now available in public health facilities, designated primary healthcare facilities, shopping malls, markets, schools and general hospitals.
Others are religious centres, motor parks, as well as other designated sites.
“Anyone that is 18 yrs and above is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination free of charge,” he said.