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Prof. Sagay, Tomori, Ozoilo disagree on mandatory vaccination

…against civic, human rights – Experts
…increasing education on COVID-19 pathology’ll help
…will engender more mistrust, resistance

Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, and some medical experts have disagreed on the directive by the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, that there would be no access to public places for anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated.

The State government had announced plans to make it compulsory for residents to take COVID-19 vaccine and present proof before accessing public places from the 2nd week of September. Governor Obaseki, at a news briefing in Benin, had on September 1 threatened to impose a lockdown, if residents failed to follow the directive and comply with COVID-19 protocols in order to halt the spread of the Delta variant of the pandemic.

While the Edo State government’s directive was supported by Professor Sagay, some medical experts, including Prof. Oyewale Tomori, a leading virologist and former President of the Nigeria Academy of Science (NAS), Prof. Ken Ozoilo, immediate past president, Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), Dr. Michael Olanrewaju, an obstetric and gynecologist and Dr. Julian Ojebo, specialist registrar anesthesia and critical care were against the policy.

Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, while justifying the directive by the State government, insisted that those who have been vaccinated would be endangered by those who have not been vaccinated. According to the learned silk, “I don’t know the amount of COVID-19 vaccines that were made available to Edo State.

If there were adequate amounts and some people deliberately refused to take it, for whatever conspiracy reason they may have, then the government will be justified. “This is because whoever doesn’t take the vaccine will be infected, and when you are allowed to go to public places where others who have been vaccinated live, you can, automatically, infect them.

“You can infect or re-infect those who have already been vaccinated, even though the symptoms may be mild. “Imagine when the vaccinated ones, who are now infected, go home to meet their underage children that cannot take the vaccine, they will also expose them directly to the virus.

“Those who have been vaccinated, like the rest of us, would be endangered by those who have not been vaccinated. So that is the main reason. “But what I am more interested in is to find out if there were adequate supplies of the doses of the vaccine, such that they had the opportunity and refused, then the directive is justified.

“But if they did not refuse, and there were no adequate supplies of the vaccines and no opportunity to get vaccinated, then the government cannot make such a law. So all the government can do in such a case is to make it mandatory to wear face masks, until there are enough vaccines for everyone”.

The medical experts, who spoke to Saturday Telegraph stressed that such move was not only a violation of the civic and human rights of the people, but that it could further engender more mistrust and resistance from majority of the populace who already have a mindset about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the vaccines. While explaining his position on the mandatory call for vaccination, Professor Tomori urged the federal government to first make the COVID-19 vaccines available for the masses in sufficient quantities.

He said: “I think the government should first ensure vaccines are available and accessible to all; only then, can such mandates be ethical, fair and just. Speaking further, he said, “How many doses of vaccines have we so far received? In total, there are less than 10 million vaccines for over 100 million people.” On his part, Prof. Ozoilo described the mandate from the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki,compelling citizens to take the COVID-19 jab as excessive, saying such a mandate is not backed by any medical fact. According to him, taking the vaccine does not mean that the persons that take the jab cannot get infected by coronavirus.

However, for those who take the jab, he stated that the vaccination can reduce their severity of illness. Ozoilo said what such a mandate does is infringe on the human right of persons being compelled to take the vaccination, adding the individuals have the right to choose what to do with their bodies. “There is no basis to compel anybody to get vaccinated; there is no scientific basis for that,” he added. He reasoned that the way to go is to persuade citizens to take the jab through education, adding that people should be given that right to choose to be vaccinated; however, forcing them is not proper, he stressed.

Speaking in similar vein, Olanrewaju and Ojebo said the best approach is further sensitisation, advocacy and education of the masses on the cause and effects of the virus on the economy, society and the health, especially the elderly and persons with underlining ailments, vis-à-vis the benefits of the vaccine on the economy, society and health.

On his part, Olanrewaju maintained that the Edo State government should have employed wisdom by leveraging on revered institutions and the media to persuade and motivate the people to take the vaccine, using live experiences and scenarios to drive home the importance of being administered the vaccine to ensure safety from the complications and possible death associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. He said: “The government should put in more effort, via advocacy and appeal to the masses.

There is need for more enlightenment, using community leaders and mass media. If you don’t see the need to put an end to the disease, you will not be motivated to take the vaccine. COVID-19 is real as it is also deadly, but compulsory vaccination is not the way to go.” Commenting, Ojebu whose family was motivated to receive the vaccine after he took the jab, raised concerns that compelling people to be administered the COVID-19 vaccine was not the right way to go. According to Ojebu, educating the masses and making them see reasons why they should be vaccinated is the way to go.

“It is not medically right; what has the government of Edo state done about the COVID-19 pathology in every part of the state in their local dialects for the people to understand the severity of COVID-19 in their system? “Most of the elites still believe that COVID-19 do not exist; so, how do you want the common man to believe that COVID-19 exists because you have not done enough sensitisation. We need to educate the people on the pathology of the disease called COVID-19. “It is a wrong move; we can only persuade them by educating them on the issues COVID-19 brings economically, physically and in the health of the people and not making policies hurriedly without involving key stakeholders.”

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