Investigation

COVID-19: Why we’re hesitant to take vaccine, by health workers

We’d take the vaccine because we know implications of not taking it –Doctors

As COVID-19 vaccine begins to roll out this week, enthusiasm in the healthcare workforce has not been encouraging. While some are hesitant to take the jab, others, especially the doctors, are excited about taking the shot as they see it as a welcome relief to the threat the virus poses in their line of duty. Isioma Madike, along with our other correspondents, who went to town to gauge the mood of the healthcare workers, report

Although they do work that puts them and their families at high risk, some healthcare workers, who confront the damage of COVID-19 firsthand are hesitant to take the vaccine just like many in the general population. Saturday Telegraph recent survey suggests that many of these healthcare workers are reluctant to get vaccinated against the dreaded coronavirus.

While some are willing to get vaccinated at a future date, others do not believe the vaccine to be the medical solution to the pandemic. But, many of them do not reject the vaccine in its entirety, they appear only to be cautious about it. Their suspicion is driven by the evidence supporting it and the motives of those endorsing them.

They readily point to the astonishing speed of its development, which they said made science a victim of its own success. “We were told that it takes years, if not decades, to develop vaccines, but these new ones took less than a year from conception to injection,” one of them noted. While it is true that the vaccine has been rolled out at an unprecedented pace, experts kept reassuring people, particularly healthcare workers that corners have not been cut. “It was not developed too fast. It was developed expediently,” said one expert. “These vaccines have been under development as a class for many, many years.

We were able to pivot to the specific type of vaccine for this particular organism very quickly. “We know, historically, most of the bad stuff that happens with vaccines occurs in the first few months. We’re outside that window now,” another assured. Notwithstanding these assurances, some Nigerian healthcare workers simply want to wait, to see longerterm safety data, or at least to find out how their colleagues fare after inoculation. Aside from the scientific evidence showing vaccines’ safety and efficacy, these healthcare workers still shun the data in favour of “baseless” claims and discredited myths.

A widely-shared fiction, for instance, says the shot contains an injectable microchip and suggests Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, is plotting to use the vaccine to track the locations of the world’s population. Joy, a practicing nurse in one of the government hospitals in Lagos State, doesn’t want a coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine, she told our reporter, “came out too fast.

I think they removed a lot of barriers to get it done faster.” She continued: “It’s not that I don’t believe they’re trying to do a good job. I think they have awesome scientists working really hard. I applaud them for doing what they’re doing. I just don’t believe there’s been enough research yet. There’s no way they’ve been studying it for long enough.” Beyond the speed of development, Joy has questions about how long vaccine- generated immunity lasts, about how serious the long-term side effects might be, and about what could happen if the virus mutates further. Until these questions are answered to her satisfaction, she has no plans to get immunized.

“I’m not saying never; I’m just saying not now,” she added. A Laboratory Scientist at the Adeoyo Hospital, Ibadan, Adeyemi Adetola, said the COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently being distributed across states as being championed by the Federal Government is wrong in many ways. Adetola said: “The vaccines were not taken through proper stages of ethical and professional levels before the release. It does not give 100 per cent protection from the virus as expected, and users still need to use masks and social distance.

So, what is the use? “The mortality rate of the COVID -19 is far less than that of many other illnesses like malaria and yet this much attention is not given to it. Also, most Nigerians are asymptomatic and recovering well, and so, no major need for the vaccine.” Also, a medical practitioner, who preferred anonymity, told Saturday Telegraph that if asked, he would prefer that the vaccine is optional and should be a personal decision; after all, it is never made a compulsion, according to him, in other parts of the world.

The medical doctor said he has his reservations and it shouldn’t be anybody’s funeral if anyone declines it. “A healthcare giver is not limited to exercise his or her right in the society. The point is when they discharge their primary duty of protecting and promoting life, since there are no vectors or carriers of the virus, they should be left to decide whether to take it or not.

There has never been any part of the world that people (including healthcare workers) are compelled to take any vaccine(s). “I’d like to refer you to read books or literature on vaccines’ rules. Whether a healthcare worker or not, everyone is expected to take responsibility for their actions. And lastly, I have my reservations on taking or not taking the vaccine. Please be well informed that taking drugs, treatment and or vaccines involves one’s resolution and faith.

“Let me ask this question: Do you know that some Muslim faithful don’t take certain injections such as insulin owing to the fact that these medications are made from pigs fats? Guess you know Muslims are not allowed to rear, touch or eat pigs and the WHO is in full support of their actions and tenets. Would you like to ask why? Everyone would take responsibility for their actions. However, I wouldn’t mind taking the jab, if it is made mandatory for health workers, and as long as it doesn’t give a negative side effect.

But, I will not encourage others to take the jab,” he said. On his part, Dr. Sunday Ayilara, expressed mixed feelings on the vaccination exercise, saying he is not sure whether he would take the vaccine or not. Ayilara, a private medical practitioner in Ogun State, said he was not in a hurry to take the vaccine “because nobody has been able to convince him about the efficacy of it.

Besides, there are reports that some people have reacted negatively to the vaccine, and in some cases, people have been reported to have died following complications from taking the vaccine.” Meanwhile, the Ogun State chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has allayed the fear of medical workers in the state over the safety of the AstraZeneca COVID- 19 vaccine.

This is even as the state government commenced the vaccination of frontline workers a few days after the state took delivery of the first batch of 50,000 out of the allocated 100,000 vaccine doses from the Federal government. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, while flagging off the vaccination exercise for healthcare workers in the state on Thursday assured that all health workers in the state would be vaccinated. Urging his members and other medical workers in the state to participate in the vaccination exercise, the Chairman, Ogun State chapter of the NMA, Dr. Oladayo Ogunlaja, said the association would be sensitising medical practitioners on the need to take the vaccine.

Ogunlaja dispelled the rumour making the rounds that the vaccine is harmful and called on members of the public to embrace the vaccine. According to the NMA chairman, “I will be taking the vaccine probably today (Thursday) or tomorrow (Friday). I will encourage my members and other medical workers to also ensure that they take the vaccine, especially the front liners and other health workers. “Health workers are the most at the risk of contracting the virus because they are the ones attending to patients; we are encouraging them to take the vaccine.”

In spite of such persuasions from the Ogun NMA president, some of her Ondo State counterparts said they have doubts on the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine being distributed in Nigeria presently. Following the commencement of vaccination of Nigerians against COVID-19, some health workers in Ondo State have expressed concerns over the potency of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. According to most of the health workers, who are on indefinite strike in the state, the speedy way at which the vaccine was created within a short time frame calls for questioning.

Speaking with Saturday Telegraph on the issue, a medical doctor in the state, Dr. Olufemi Akinjiyan, said it is a known fact that the vaccine cannot protect people fully, hence his doubt about its efficacy. He said: “I’m not convinced about the vaccine because even if you take it, it does not protect you from the virus. So, what is the purpose of the vaccine? I have not seen any answer to that. It usually takes more than a year to get vaccines but in this case, a vaccine got less than a year.

There are a lot of questions begging for answers as regards it.” Also, a senior nurse at the Federal Medical Centre in the state, who gave her name simply as Nireti, advised that the vaccine should be subjected to further analysis following the withdrawal and stoppage of it in some countries.

While stressing that since the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine cannot give 100 per cent protection, it should not be termed as a vaccine but an immunity booster. Another nurse at one of the stateowned government hospitals, identified simply as Biola, also maintained that she is not convinced about the vaccine due to uncertainties about its efficacy. While expressing beliefs in the judgement of the relevant authorities as regards the usage of the vaccine on Nigerians, she advised that those who had been vaccinated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca should be closely monitored as being done in other countries. Dr. Josephine Abah also said she is still skeptical about the safety of the vaccine.

“I’m indifferent; they are making this whole vaccine thing confuse us, especially the video going viral, which shows that the elite are not being vaccinated. Well, I’m pregnant and they said pregnant women don’t take it but I heard that once taken you cannot give birth. If it’s true, that means a whole generation will be wiped out.” Dr. Clara Olaroye, on her part, said she wasn’t interested and would not take the vaccine due to its possible long term effects and the possibility that she has already grown some antibodies that would protect her from getting infected with the virus. She said: “For me, honestly I will not take it.

When the disease was much in society I pulled through to the Glory of God as a health worker. So, why should I take it now that I just feel there is no need? I should think that I must have developed antibodies and moreover they are not sure if that vaccine is lifelong or not. It can wean and clear off.

“So, for me I am not ready to take that vaccine because I am not ready for the side effects. There will be side effects because people are presented in different ways, although I have seen two people, who took the vaccine without side effects. One is very strong but she has been sweating profusely since the day she took the jab but again, that may be because of the hot weather, but we can’t be so sure.” Meanwhile, other health workers have linked the reason(s) behind the hesitation of some of their colleagues to take the available COVID-19 vaccine to the knowledge base of a physician, a nurse or other healthcare givers working in the hospital. A lot of our hospitals, one of them said, are staffed with a larger degree of people who have less professional training.

“Not that they’re not professionals, but they have less professional training than others in the hospitals,” he added. This opinion may be the reason why some doctors are enthusiastic about taking the vaccine. For instance, the Chief Medical Officer of Crest Hospital, Igando, Dr. Waheed Abayomi, excitedly said he would take the vaccine and encourage everyone he knows to do the same. Abayomi said: “Sure, why not? I’d take the vaccine because I know the implications of not taking it. I’ll leave the pseudoscientists and conspiracy theorists to their opinions.” A neurological surgeon in Abuja, Dr. Biodun Ogungbo, also said he would certainly take the vaccine. “I am definitely happy to take the vaccine and will advise all Nigerians who have access and are offered to take the vaccine. The way the world is going, a vaccine passport will be a requirement for travel, and access to many places.

“The vaccine has now been given to many millions of people all over the world and especially to about 50 per cent of people in Israel, for example. We must encourage all Nigerians and give them the right information,” he said. In like manner, Dr. Peter Ogunnubi of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, also said: “I will take the vaccine, though I would have preferred to take the one with proven potency of 94 or 95 per cent potency and not this one said to have about 65 per cent.

But, half a bread they say, is better than none.” Another medical doctor, Ade Oderinde, said he will certainly take the vaccine but won’t let down the non-pharmaceutical protective measures. He listed those measures as washing of the hands with soap and water or sanitizing with an alcohol based sanitizer; wearing of face masks; respiratory hygiene (coughing/ sneezing into the elbow), and keeping an appropriate social distance. Dr. Hadijat Usman, who spoke to our correspondent in Abuja, also noted that she was convinced the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe, and was willing to take it once it gets to her turn.

“Why not; I will because I know the implication of not taking it. The AstraZeneca we are taking has 66 per cent efficacy but at the same time, it’s worth taking because this is a disease we don’t know the pathology and the world is still unraveling the cause. “I don’t have any fears people have received it and it has proven to be very safe. The other drugs we have been taking worked for us so I don’t have any fears this will be different,” Usman said. Also, Dr. Clement Nnaji said he has resolved to take the vaccine to protect himself and others from getting infected and passing through the pains that comes with COVID-19. He said: “Yes I will take the jab because I know it is going to protect me and give me immunity.

I don’t have fears because it has been tested, it has gone through trials, our colleagues everywhere are taking it and it has little or no effect. So, I would love to take it.” On his part, Dr. Joshua Ekpele, who insisted that the vaccine was safe, said he would take it to protect and immune himself from getting infected. He however advised that taking the vaccine does not mean the other COVID-19 preventive measures should be neglected. “The answer is yes, it brings protection and immunity to anyone that takes it and it has been confirmed to be safe.

It is good to be vaccinated and still maintain hand washing, the use of face masks and social distance.” On possible side effects, Ekpele said every drug has its side effects, yet people still take them when they are sick. Dr. Dada Onah, who has already registered online, said: “Why won’t I take it? I have registered and once it’s my time to take the jab I will go and take it.” However, some health workers have noted that most of their colleagues, who are reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine immediately, are not necessarily refusing it indefinitely. Many, one of them, said, are “in a wait-and-see mode: they wouldn’t mind if a few more million people got it before they did. Despite robust safety and efficacy data, they want to see more real-world proof first.”

Additional reports from Sola Adeyemo (Ibadan), Olufemi Adediran (Abeokuta), Adewale Momoh (Akure), and Regina Otokpa (Abuja).

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