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COVID-19 vaccination: CSOs tackle Edo govt on restrictions, profiling

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A man sits behind two vials of the (L to R) Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines at a vaccination centre (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

• Ondo declares no vaccination, no access to church, mosque, others
• Three die as Edo inoculates 19,579 persons
• Coalition cautions Obaseki over compulsory vaccination
• Nigeria records 93 deaths, 362 new cases – NCDC

As the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, strident reactions, yesterday, trailed Edo State government’s decision to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for its people.

With Edo State at 5,341, currently seventh on the log of confirmed cases behind Lagos, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Rivers, Kaduna, Plateau and Oyo states, Governor Godwin Obaseki last week said residents without proof of COVID-19 vaccination would be barred from public facilities and large gatherings.

He had made this known during the flag off of the second phase of COVID-19 vaccination in Benin, where he lamented the increasing cases of infections in the state, adding that the government’s efforts were geared towards mitigating the spike in the number of cases.

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“With what we have seen so far, COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay. This is the third wave and there is nothing that points to the fact that other waves will not come. What we are likely to see is intermittent waves of this pandemic. We are not going to shut down Edo State but we will make sure we protect all Edo citizens.

“Therefore, I have come out with the following regulations, beginning from the second week of September 2021, large gatherings as well as high traffic public and private places will only be accessed by persons who have proof of taking at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine,” the governor had said.

Also, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, said the state executive council meeting, yesterday, has decided that all residents of the state must be vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing that the decision was made in view of the ongoing efforts of the state government to contain spread of the Delta variant of the virus.

He said the council also approved that residents are giving two weeks ultimatum for vaccination after which evidence of vaccination will be criteria to access churches, mosques, hospitals and other public places including government offices.

“Aside all existing protocols, all residents in the state must be vaccinated with effect from two weeks from now. After the expiration of this two weeks, evidence of vaccination will be the condition to access public places, churches, mosques. The Head of Service has been mandated to drive this process in the public service,” Ojogo stressed.

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BUT yesterday, a Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Edo State defied early morning downpour to protest against the state government’s directive on compulsory COVID-19 vaccination by residents before accessing a large gathering and plans by the state to restrict movement of persons without COVID-19 certificates.

The protesters, who wore T-shirts with inscriptions such as ‘No To Forced Vaccination,’ ‘My Life, My Right’, among others, walked around the city and converged on the Government House, protesting against what they described as Governor Obaseki’s forced vaccination and restriction of movement policy.

Led by Chris Iyama, the group insisted that the recent directive by the governor infringed on their fundamental human rights. They resisted what they described as forceful vaccination and vaccine profiling and issued a seven-day ultimatum for the governor to rescind the decision.

“Governor Obaseki must rescind his decision. That decision will not stand. The governor did not seek our opinion. We are giving the governor seven days,” Iyama said.

The interim state chairman, Edo civil society, Bishop Osadolor Anthony Ochei, said it is the right of citizens to decide whether to be vaccinated or not.

“If the government has failed, we cannot fail ourselves. Government has the right to make policies but this policy is not law,” Ochei noted.

The Secretary to the State Government (SSG) addressed the protesters and informed them that the governor and deputy governor were not around. Chief of Staff to the Governor, Osaigbovo Iyoha, was also on ground to receive the protesters. He received their letter of petition and promised to inform the governor about their demands.

ALSO yesterday, Nigeria COVID-19 Response Alliance, a coalition of over 70 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and faith-based Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) described the statement credited to Governor Obaseki as outrageous, insensitive and excessive in response to the COVID-19 situation both in Edo State and Nigeria at large.

The governor had not only stated that from the second week of September, people may not be allowed to worship in churches and mosques without showing proof of their vaccination cards, he further warned that “government will work with security agencies to ensure full enforcement of the measure.”

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But the alliance formed to monitor the official response to the pandemic in Nigeria and ensure that the response remains within the ambit of fundamental human and religious rights, said the statement has no basis in law, logic, science, or ethics.

In a briefing addressed in Lagos by the alliance chairperson, Rev. Tony Akinyemi; its first vice chairperson, Prof Joshua Ojo; and its public relations officer, Dr. Patrick Ijewere, the group said it is unscientific and criminal to stampede the whole world into clinical trials.

They also called on Governor Obaseki to immediately retract the statement and rescind the decision.

Dr. Ijewere, a consultant in Internal Medicine, said: “To begin with, does Mr. Obaseki has enough vaccines for the 3,233,336 residents of Edo, were they all to step out for the vaccine in compliance with this half-baked measure?”

On the premise of ethics of mandating a no-liability experimental medical product, he said the vaccines, which Mr. Governor is directing his citizens to mandatorily receive, (Moderna, Astra Zeneca, and Johnson & Johnson) are up to this moment all known to be experimental in nature, having been authorised only for emergency or experimental use.

He said it was also a well known fact that virtually every party involved in administering the shots (from the manufacturers to the donors and the medics, including the Edo State government) are all indemnified from all liabilities in case of any adverse effects attending the receipt of the vaccine.

According to him, “it is, therefore, not only unconscionable making the jab mandatory for free citizens, it is particularly obnoxious linking it with their fundamental right to assemble and worship.”

On the issue of effectiveness and duration of efficacy, he said contrary to the oft-parroted phrase that the “vaccines are safe and effective”,  publicly-available records clearly indicate otherwise.

“For instance, it is no secret that Gibraltar, with literally 100 per cent vaccination status, has become the world’s COVID-19 capital and is rated at the highest Level 4. A recent advisory from the U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) warns U.S. citizens to stay off Gibraltar, adding that because of the current situation in Gibraltar, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.

“The same situation of extremely high infection rates in highly vaccinated societies and communities is infamously repeated in Seychelles and Israel. If China recovered in three months from the devastation of COVID-19 without a single vaccine, why do they want to force Africans to be vaccinated?”

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On the critical issue of safety, he said beyond the issue of efficacy, however, the safety profile of the vaccines being mandated by Governor Obaseki is even more frightening. “With no publicly accessible database on adverse effects associated with the vaccine in Nigeria, it is very easy for government officials to continue mouthing their mantra of a “safe” vaccine, even when the administration of AstraZeneca jabs, for example, were being paused in dozens of nations all over the world over safety concerns, officials here in Nigeria keep insisting there is nothing to worry about with the product.

“It is simply bewildering to note that up till the present time, no independent testing of safety has been conducted by the Nigerian authority on these vaccines that Mr. Obaseki insists it must be taken by everybody in his constituency who wishes to worship God.

“The NAFDAC freely admits that all that was done by that body is to adopt a new protocol handed to it by the World Health Organisation. Termed ‘Reliance’, the new ad hoc protocol excuses NAFDAC from carrying out any independent safety test on the vaccines, and encourages her to make pronouncements on safety, simply based on tests and pronouncements made by more ‘matured regulatory bodies’.”

MEANWHILE, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), on Sunday night, confirmed 93 additional deaths from coronavirus, thereby increasing the country’s death toll to 2,454.

A day earlier, 53 deaths were recorded in the country.

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Edo State, yesterday, recorded three COVID-19-related deaths and 92 new confirmed cases, bringing the total number of fatalities in the state to 11. The state COVID-19 Incident Manager, Dr. Andrew Obi, disclosed this after the daily virtual meeting of the State COVID-19 task force, chaired by the governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.

Obi said all deaths recorded in the third wave of the virus are of unvaccinated persons, reiterating the need for all residents to get inoculated with the vaccines to remain alive and healthy.

“It is imperative to note that while 100 per cent of deaths recorded in the state are unvaccinated persons, 96 per cent of infections in the state are people who were never vaccinated against the virus. This necessitates the need for everyone to get inoculated as the vaccines provide significant protection against the virus,” Obi said.

The Incident Manager further stated that the government has intensified the vaccination of persons across all communities in the state, noting that 19,579 persons have been inoculated since the commencement of the second phase of the vaccination exercise.

He added: “Edo has now collected a total of 7,908 samples, vaccinated over 19,579 persons and recorded 166 recoveries, 431 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with a case positivity rate of 17.6 per cent.”

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