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Govs disown Bello on ‘killer’ COVID-19 vaccine

State governors in the country have disowned one of their own, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, over his position on the vaccine meant for inoculation of the citizens against COVID- 19. Kogi State governor who disputed the existence of coronavirus, also rejected the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and said it is meant to kill people. But the governors, who met on Wednesday, dissociated themselves from Bello’s pronouncement and said that they will “continue to be informed and guided by science.”

In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the state chief executives assured that every decision taken in relation to the vaccine will be guided by “public and professional trust and is not compromised by conflicts of interest.” The communiqué, which was signed by Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, noted that Nigeria will receive its first shipment of vaccines by the end of February.

Fayemi, who briefed members on the outcome of meeting with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, on the rollout of the COVAX facility, said the vaccines will be administered in four phases, based on type and availability. According to him, frontline health workers will be the first to be vaccinated, followed by persons from 55 years and above, persons with underlying medical conditions and other target groups.

The Ekiti State governor further disclosed that the forum was briefed by three medical experts on Nigeria’s preparedness for the procurement and administration of COVID vaccines and the level of collaboration required from all stakeholders, including the federal and state governments and the private sector.

“Following the presentations, the forum set up a team of experts led by Prof. Oyewale Tomori, to advice state governors on the procurement and administration of coronavirus vaccines in the country,” Fayemi disclosed.

The governors expressed concern over the rising cases of coronavirus infection in the country and called for reactivation of health systems at state level, opening up of treatment centres and increase partnerships with stakeholder groups in order to improve risk communication and the public’s adherence to COVID-19 guidelines. Following a presentation by the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Hus-sein Adamu and the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, on the Sustainable Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SUWASH) results-based financing programme for states, the meeting agreed that state governments should increase budgetary allocation to the water sector.

This is to be done in collaboration with the “Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the World Bank through the $640 million investment finance and $60 million technical assistance component, which together will support and incentivise infrastructure investments and strengthen government policies and institutions in the WASH sector.” This, the governors noted, is because the sector has contributed 73 per cent of Nigeria’s total burden of enteric infections and over 255,000 preventable deaths in the country each year.

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