Despite talks, campaign and noise about getting vaccinated against the dreaded Coronavirus disease, popularly known by its acronym as COVID-19, many Nigerians are hesitant about this nationwide inoculation. That is based a number of grounds which Sunday Telegraph has delved into, in this article. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
• Manufacturers immune from legal liabilities, prosecution, says HHS
• Vaccines’ licences emergency, experimental –Prof. Asuzu
• Over 10,000 side effects reported, vaccines not real inoculation –Solid Sciences
• FG may sanction eligible Nigerians who refuse COVID-19 vaccination –NPHCDA
The throng of hesitance shown against COVID-19 vaccination by the majority of Nigerians, including medical professionals and laymen on the street, is traceable to a number of issues surrounding the origin of the disease and underlying motive for this nationwide exercise.
Many believe there is something sinister about the vaccines since the manufacturers of these vaccines issued a caveat and disassociated themselves from any unexpected outcome relating to administration and deployment of the vaccine for vaccination.
According to Legal Issues in COVID-19 Vaccine Development, legal liability for injuries caused by a COVID-19 vaccine is subject to specialised rules under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which makes the manufacturers immune from legal action in a case of damage to the body or death by the vaccine(s).
The 25th Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Xavier Becerra, declared COVID-19 a public health emergency and invoked the PREP Act for COVID-19 countermeasures.
Under HHS’s declaration, covered persons including COVID-19 vaccine developers, manufacturers, distributors, and healthcare professionals, who administer a vaccine, are generally immune from legal liability for losses relating to administration or use of an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, except for willful misconduct resulting in death or serious physical injury.
This caveat, indeed, created a deafening silence, especially among senior medical professionals and others, who stealthily advised their colleagues against partaking in the exercise.
Apart from the array of myths and misconceptions associated with this vaccination, there were, however, genuine reasons and scientifically proven grounds for which many Nigerians are hesitant about the vaccine.
From the feelers Sunday Telegraph gathered from the masses, some Nigerians believe that there is no need for a national vaccination policy for a virus that can be easily destroyed by an ordinary soap through hand wash.
Others argued that there is no need for a vaccine that does not protect the vaccinated from contracting the virus even as the body’s immune system can successfully fight the virus, the reason people were advised to keep boosting their immune system by taking Vitamin C.
A good number of them said that a vaccination policy is indeed a wrong option for a virus that mutates on a regular basis, saying that the variant you see today is not what you treat tomorrow as evident in the current highly infectious and deadly Delta variant of the virus.
They held that of the two first professors in the University of Ibadan, who reportedly died of the recent Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, one was reportedly fully immunised with this vaccine but the other, not at all.
However, Sunday Telegraph gathered that even some people who submitted themselves for the vaccination did that against their will because there were certain policies in place to deny them their inalienable rights, including access to certain places and countries, except they have themselves fully vaccinated.
Edo State is a clear example of a state where people are being coerced into doing so to enable them to be able to access certain offices and places, without which, no one will gain access to the Government House or certain ministries in the state, going by the policy of flying one’s evidence of vaccination as a pass, though a court has ruled otherwise.
For many others, they hypocritically presented themselves for the vaccination, not because they are fully convinced of the exercise. Rather, they did it on the premise ‘to be seen to have done so’ other than preventive measures.
“It’s better for me to err on the side of caution than otherwise. It will look funny that it will be said that an editor of AYZ newspapers died of COVID-19 because he didn’t go for vaccination.
Instead, let it be said that after the vaccination, he still contracted the disease and died,” an Editor of one of national dailies quipped. Hence, submitting oneself for the exercise is more of what the public would say than having the conviction about the genuineness of the exercise and its effectiveness in warding off the dreaded and over hysteric disease.
Many experts have said that the vaccines are trial ones as they have not gone through the compulsory clinical trials before being recommended for a mass administration which is the reason the manufacturers declines any responsibility in the possibility of unexpected outcomes.
They noted that the permission or licenses that the manufacturers have received for administering the vaccines to masses are also most appropriately called ‘Emergency’ Licences, drug trial types of experimental.
This lent credence to audible criticisms of these vaccines by certain professors of medicine, immunologists and professors in solid sciences that what was being paraded as vaccines, are, indeed, not vaccines going by what inoculation is known for.
A professor of Public Health and Community Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Michael C. Asuzu, said what the country is offering currently as vaccines are not vaccines but rather Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
He agreed to the fact that vaccination is the next best control of any infectious disease, often only next to its complete eradication, saying this can only be so if what one is talking about is truly a vaccine.
He noted that such a vaccine, however, has many other yardsticks to meet, if it is to be such a useful vaccine, insisting that not all vaccines are useful; mainly because of failures to meet these requirements of true effectiveness as such.
He said: “The disease sometimes may be one in which there happens to be other measures that may be more important or more effective than the given vaccine in relation to the relevant properties of that vaccine as already mentioned.
“All these have to be understood before a responsible government, her ethically and scientifically minded public health workers can determine the correct combination and hierarchy of these public health measures to take in relation to the given disease.”
Asuzu made a striking point when he explained what a real vaccine should look like as against what it’s being propagated as COVID- 19 vaccine, though he didn’t talk out of anybody, who wants to take the vaccine but saddled with the responsibility of educating Nigerians to make the right decisions.
He continued: “Vaccines are originally killed disease microbes (viruses, bacteria, etc). These microbes have been killed and then introduced into the human body so that the recipients can naturally develop the antibodies or other immune responses to the disease, in readiness for their being subsequently attacked by the disease.
“And because these microbes, at the beginning of the history of vaccines, were killed, they were not active enough in some cases and the natural immunities helped people to develop may not be very great.
“So, in the second generation and class of vaccine production, diseases in which the immunities produced with dead vaccines were inadequate and had to have those microbes only partially killed or attenuated, as we say it in medical language.
“In that way, when introduced into the human body, these attenuated microbes try to mimic a disease attack. But because they are attenuated, they will be unable to do so. However, they would have stimulated that recipient’s immune system enough to actively cause the development of such natural immunity to the highest degree possible for that disease.”
According to him, to date, these are the only two types of true vaccines, for what is today, referred to as active immunisation or vaccination, saying that these two brands of products are what true vaccines are in the modern world.
He stressed that none of these have been produced for the current COVID-19 pandemic; though some research laboratories are trying to develop them.
He noted that while various research bodies are still trying to develop either of these Despite talks, campaign and noise about getting vaccinated against the dreaded Coronavirus disease, popularly known by its acronym as COVID-19, many Nigerians are hesitant about this nationwide inoculation.
That is based a number of grounds which Sunday Telegraph has delved into, in this article. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports two types of true vaccines around the world, some people have gone ahead to develop what should properly be called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
“Actually in this case, no such organisms at all have been produced, but genetically modified biomedical products; and we decided to call them ‘vaccine.’
These currently available ‘COVID-19 vaccines’ are, therefore, not vaccines as we know it in solid science,” he insisted.
Licences for vaccine, trial types of experimental
He said that the permission or licenses that they (manufacturers) have received for administering them to anybody are also most appropriately called ‘Emergency’ Licences, drug trial types or experimental.
The renowned public health expert said COVID-19 is a flu (kind of common cold) virus and except that this has become one of the fast-evolving varieties of these that are tending to be fairly more debilitating and death causing, yet it still remains flu viruses, transmitted only by close hand and face contacts with wet or aerosol respiratory (airborne mouth and nose) human outputs for their man to man transmission.
He continued: “These viruses have hardly had any vaccines with immunities lasting for more than a few months only.
The immune conversion after receiving those vaccines had never been very high either, and the virus is mutating per second, and before you finish with developing one vaccine, another or several new varieties of the viruses may have developed, and most probably require a new vaccine.
“As many people will know, this flu is common in the temperate or cold countries of the world. So, they had developed systems of developing and using these vaccines in their yearly cycles of this flu. “This is not the case with this flu in the tropics.
There may be other factors that make this infection, its sustenance and severity by this flu virus not to be the case in these countries; even as the current pandemic has so resoundingly proven.
“But as you must know, the ‘vaccine’ so far has far too many genetic unknowns about it. It does not stop you from catching or transmitting the virus; nor does it exempt you from those more fundamental preventative measures and practices that cost so little, even if it apparently may seem to need them less.
“If we apply these principles, as well as the ‘vaccination’ for those who desire to do so, we should be able to control this disease both in Nigeria and worldwide in a very short time, obviously.”
Corroborating him, a UNESCO researcher and the Chairman, Global Prolife Alliance (GPA), Council on World Peace, Prof. Philip C. Njemanze, said while the impressive results seen with robust immunity after the vaccine could be the expected initial positive reaction, there could be a pathogenic priming which means that on exposure to the wild virus, the vaccinated people may still develop the disease and get sicker and die.
He stressed that in the course of the COVID- 19 disease, there is the initial replication (multiplication) of the virus in the body of the patient, then, the release of chemicals into the bloodstream called Cytokine Storm and then blood clots forming or thrombosis obstructing flow of blood in the vessels. He said: “The strategy chosen is selected to address these stages.
The COVID-19 vaccine strategy advocated by some is not suitable for our condition in Nigeria. When a pandemic starts, the virus mutates. SARS-CoV-2 mutates regularly, acquiring about one new mutation in its genome every two weeks and more deaths may be recorded even after vaccination.”
He noted that a new variant strain of SARSCoV- 2 that contains a series of mutations has been described in the United Kingdom (UK) and has become highly prevalent in London and southeast England. Based on these mutations, this variant strain has been predicted to be potentially more rapidly transmissible than other circulating strains of SARS-CoV
He observed that each geographic area may have a predominant strain, so what works in the United States may not work here in Nigeria, saying that this changing dynamics means that a vaccine said to be effective against one strain may turn out to be less effect or even not effective against another strain of the virus somewhere else.
He noted that one such effective drug that slows viral multiplication in the human body is IVM or Stromectol, drugs previously used for veterinary purposes as a broad-spectrum antihelminthes.
He said: “This would mean that in persons with mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms, IVM could be integrated into the overall care that would prevent the multiplication of the virus in the body. This will allow the immune system time to produce the antibodies against the COVID-19 regardless of the variant of the invading strain of the virus.
“The human body is a factory for production of antibodies, which are the real vaccine that protects the human person. The effort of the Federal Government should be focused on up-scaling the existing channels of distribution of IVM in both urban and rural areas.
“Through this reasonably sound strategy, we can protect people against COVID-19, parasites particularly River Blindness.
The miracle of it all is that some Big Pharmacies are really generous. Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A. donates Mectizan for the elimination of river blindness (onchocerciasis) and lymphatic filariasis (LF) worldwide. “For LF elimination in African countries where river blindness is co-endemic, Mectizan is co-administered with albendazole, donated by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
In countries eligible for ‘triple therapy’ to accelerate LF elimination, Mectizan and albendazole are co-administered with diethylcarbamazine (DEC), donated by Eisai. “The Federal Government of Nigeria could act now in the best interest of Nigerians to take the free launch offered already by some Big Pharma.”
Sunday Telegraph learnt that after IVM was discovered to have microfilacidal activity and proven to be well tolerated. It was adopted in Nigeria in 1992 for mass distribution under the Primary Health Care (PHC) scheme.
According to his analysis, investigators have also demonstrated that IVM is effective in stopping COVID-19 viral replication in patients, saying it will do Nigeria and other low income African countries much good to distribute and ensure the availability of IVM across the board.
However, a member of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (NPMCN), Prof. Musa Borodo, lamented the level of COVID-19 vaccine’s acceptability in the country, adding that, the pandemic is still disrupting the socio-economic life of the world to varying degree from one region to another.
He said the research presented at the recently concluded ASCAF of the College in Kaduna showed that the acceptability of the COVID19 vaccine is far from satisfactory in Nigeria even among health workers, urging the Federal Government to step up public awareness campaigns on the issue.
Our hesitance about the vaccines
Speaking on why she has refused to partake in the exercise, or present any of her children for vaccination, Mrs. Joy Obikwelu said there have been a lot of negative things said about these vaccines – how people react and may die after taking the vaccine and also the issue of DNA destruction.
The mother of five said: “I decided not to partake in it. If I contract the disease after vaccination, then it’s better I forget about it, especially with all these controversies about the pandemic and the vaccination itself. Polio vaccine does not have this kind of problem nor measles. So, why this?
“I want to believe that in every rumour, there is a truth. People criticising these vaccines are not only Nigerians.
They are foreigners too and at the same time, they are professionals who should know. If they say I shouldn’t and the government says I should, I will follow them because the government is full of lies, targeting their selfish interests.
“Also, I hear about a lot of serious allergic reactions and in some cases that leads to death. You may say that it’s just one per cent or so but who knows who forms part of that one per cent? I’m really scared. Please, let’s leave this one first. I am not dying of COVID-19. I have not even seen anybody being killed by it since the noise.”
A medical doctor (name withheld) said they were advised by their senior colleagues not to take the vaccine, saying that they (doctors) have seen, heard and are still experiencing alarming unethical practices since this pandemic started and therefore do not want to trust anybody on this.
The respondent said: “In fact, two weeks ago, two young boys died in one of the big hospitals on Lagos Island where I am covering. The young boys, not from the same parents, wanted to travel abroad and needed the certificate. They were given the vaccine but died of allergic reaction.
The vaccine was too harsh on them. “It’s unfortunate. I am a parent and I know what the parents of the boys will be going through now. They didn’t have the virus; just to protect against the virus and they lost their lives.
Now, seeing all these, how do you want me to go for it?” Some Nigerian medical students in Harvard University, USA, have come out to say that they were warned by their lecturers who are mainly professors in different aspects of medicines against any form of vaccination.
According to a fourth year Nigerian Neurosurgery student in Harvard University, Chioma Okakpu, the warning came on the heels of contradictions and discrepancies in the data collected by different medical personnel for, and against the safety of the people after vaccination.
“There are so many inconsistencies on the side of these vaccines. The information and data are not adding up. They are rather, hastily produced not because they have the mindset of curing the ailment but making money from the regrettable situation.
What should be going on now are the clinical trials of those vaccines and not a preventive vaccination,” she said.
Again, a final year student of Medicine and Surgery, Martins Erhekeme, said. “My course director told us to apply caution whenever the issue of COVID-19 vaccination is raised as the vaccine is still an experimental vaccine.”
According to him, his Course director was being diplomatic about the controversy when he said: “You are medical students and you know what it means to say that a drug is an experimental drug.
So, I advise you to be careful, especially when all the claims about the mRNA protein content have not been logically substantiated.” “We are not being told all the truth about this vaccine but something is not right somewhere. A vaccine such as COVID-19 shouldn’t be produced in a hurry especially if the viruses undergo serious mutation. What we are fighting today is an improved variant of Coronavirus,” he added.
Over 10,000 Nigerians reported various side effects
However, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said over 10,000 Nigerians have reported various degrees of side effects after they received their first doses of the vaccination against the Coronavirus infection.
Faisal said the side effects include pain and swelling at the site of vaccination, saying that more serious symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain, fever, dizziness and allergic reactions have also been reported.
“A total of 10,027 cases of mild Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) have been reported as of May 30th , while 86 cases of moderate to severe incidents have been reported. All these individuals have, since, fully recovered,” he said.
According to him, five states have the highest records of AEFI as Cross River leads the chart with 1,071, while Kaduna reported 1,040; Lagos (796); Yobe (555) and Kebbi (525) as of May 30, 2021.
Mrs. Carol Balogun is one of the people who experienced a moderate AEFI, a moderate in the sense that she made it alive. “I was restless. I was feeling hot inside of me.
In fact, I knew something was wrong with me but I couldn’t put a finger to it. For two days, my body changed. That experience can kill. I was going to the bathroom to bathe regularly.
But after the third day, I started feeling my body back. Reactions varied from one person to another because my friend that lured me didn’t feel the same way I felt. She was experiencing a heaviness of arm,” she said.
FG may sanction eligible Nigerians who refuse COVID-19 vaccination
Meanwhile, Sunday Telegraph learnt that the Federal Government may sanction eligible Nigerians who refuse COVID-19 vaccination.
The DG, NPHCDA, Faisal Shuaib said the Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health are exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians including federal civil servants and corporate entities.
“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, we would need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy.
“If some individuals refuse to take the vaccine, hence endangering those who have or those who could not due to medical exemptions, then we have to apply the basic rule of law, which stipulates that your human right stops where mine begins.
“So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others.”