Focus on controversies surrounding coronavirus vaccines: Part 2

There have also been several controversies and conspiracy theories, not just on the coronavirus vaccines but the pandemic itself.

Many think that the COVID-19 pandemic is an artificial creation for big pharmaceutical companies to make money and that the vaccines, which do not come cheap, are just a way to serve the purpose of the big pharmaceutical companies.

Some others believe that the vaccines are actually meant for the population of the African continent, by rendering them sterile. For this set of conspiracy theorists, Africans must reject the vaccines totally.

For those who may decide to wave off these conspiracy theories as misinformed, a recent call by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Abubakar Sa’ad on Nigerians to ask questions about the vaccines before they arrive the country, made waving off the concerns dangerous and inimical to successful vaccination of the Nigerian populace.

The Sultan, a well respected traditional ruler, spoke at a COVID-19 vaccine sensitization workshop for Islamic scholars and Imams in Abuja, he advised the government not to mount pressure on Nigerians to accept the COVID-19 vaccine.

He also made it clear that Nigerians should not be stampeded into accepting the vaccine, but that through adequate knowledge and information, they will accept it.

According to him: “What we take away from this interactive session is so important, because it will help us convince the people on the need to take the COVID-19 vaccine or not. I believe we cannot force people to take vaccines.”

Acknowledging that there are conspiracy theories, the Sultan said further: “People talk of conspiracy theories such as that the COVID-19 vaccine is meant to kill us. But my take is that if a vaccine was meant to kill us, will anybody wait for the COVID-19 vaccine before killing us? We have been consuming soft drinks and other medicines that are imported into the country. If any foreigner wants to kill us, there are more than a million ways to do so.

“Indeed, the fear of reluctance, resistance or even outright rejection and opposition to the new vaccine is real and cannot be wished away. It looms large even after the government may have overcome the challenges associated with sufficient supply and efficient rollout of easy, quick and affordable access to the vaccines.

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“This is simply because resistance to vaccines is rooted in factors that drive people’s behaviours including enabling environment, socio-cultural influences, motivation, ignorance, misinformation and disinformation.”

The view of the Sultan speaks volume about how Nigerians view the vaccine. Not even the promise of the President, his deputy and state governors taking shots of the vaccine has helped much in erasing the negative mindsets of many Nigerians towards COVID-19 vaccines.

In their reactions, many Nigerians indicated their reservations about the safety of the vaccines, with fewer of them believing the vaccines are just for business as usual for government officials, insisting that though the pandemic may be real and ravaging other countries, same is not the case with Nigeria.

Another set of people believe that the pandemic in Nigeria is all about money, as they claim the number of bpositive cases being reported daily is only for those concerned to have an opportunity to loot money the more.

When many of them were asked if they would be ready to take shots of the vaccines when they become available, over 60 percent of respondents answered in the negative, insisting they do not trust them and what the side effects maybe.

This group further stated that everything about the vaccines were rushed and not much due diligence was done before rollout, making it dangerous for them to take shots of the vaccines.

The view as expressed above is majorly a reflection of the mindset of
majority of Nigerians, who find it difficult to come to terms with the reality that COVID-19 is real and truly ravaging the globe, including Nigeria.

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Many right thinking individuals, especially health professionals, who feel the sentiments being expressed by Nigerians concerning COVID-19 vaccines is dangerous, are of the view that governments at all levels must embark on immediate and vigorous public enlightenment to educate Nigerians on the effectiveness, safety and the need for the vaccines.

“Most of the sentiments and conspiracies theories people are carrying about are as a result of ignorance and the only way to curb this dangerous trend is for government to educate Nigerians on the merit of the vaccines.

“Truth is that if the vaccines arrive Nigeria today, we may find it difficult making a headway with it without proper education. Forget about the President, his Vice and the Governors taking the shots on television, the fertile Nigerian mind will find an explanation to convince himself and those around him that it was not the vaccines that had just being administered to them”, Alade, a medical professional said.

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