Saturday, 22nd January 2022
<To guardian.ng
Search
Breaking News:

FG forces COVID-19 jabs, workers plead for time

By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos), Collins Olayinka, Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Tina Abeku and Anthony Otaru (Abuja)
02 December 2021   |   4:30 am
Following the enforcement of the vaccine mandate for Federal Government workers, yesterday, civil servants in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) thronged the various vaccination sites to receive their first jab of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Unvaccinated civil servants locked out as December 1 enforcement order starts at the office of the Head of Service of the Federation in Abuja… yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

• ASCSN wants April date for unvaccinated workers’ lockout
• NCDC confirms three cases of Omicron in Nigeria
• Don’t panic, vaccines still effective, NCDC tells Nigerians
• WHO: Omicron now in 23 countries across the world
• World Health Assembly to develop historic global accord on pandemic prevention, response

Following the enforcement of the vaccine mandate for Federal Government workers, yesterday, civil servants in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) thronged the various vaccination sites to receive their first jab of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 had announced that starting from December 1, all employees of the Federal Government would be required to show evidence of being vaccinated or present a negative PCR result done within 72 hours before being allowed into their offices.

When The Guardian visited the vaccination centre at the Federal Medical Centre, Jabi, many civil servants and non-civil servants alike were seen waiting on line to take the jab.

The situation was the same at the vaccination site located at the Federal Secretariat, where many civil servants were seen struggling to take the jab to enable them into the secretariat premises.

It was also a mad rush for the vaccination across Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in the capital city. A nurse in the PHC located at Kuchingoro, suburban settlement in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), said the overwhelming crowd was due to the vaccine mandate, which came into effect yesterday.

She said: “A lot of falsehood is being propagated about the vaccine and this has discouraged many from taking it but thanks to the Federal Government’s deadline issued to workers, even non-government workers have turned out in large numbers to get vaccinated against the virus.”

Federal workers in Abuja, who were yet to be vaccinated were yesterday denied access to their offices by security operatives. Many of them who reported as early as 8:30a.m. at their work places were asked to show their COVID-19 vaccine cards as proof before gaining entrance into their offices.

Recall that the Federal Government had on March 4, this year, extended its work-from-home directive for some cadre of officers due to the surge in the third wave of the pandemic.

HOWEVER, The Guardian gathered that civil servants without proof of COVID-19 vaccination were later allowed into their offices at the federal secretariat, after they were initially barred by security operatives.

This was due to the throng of workers waiting outside to gain entry into their offices. Those who were yet to be vaccinated were told that they would be stopped from accessing their offices from Thursday (today).

A civil servant at the Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST) said all workers were allowed into their offices. “Everyone was allowed into their offices, even those not wearing facemasks,” he said.

As officials promise to fully implement the vaccine mandate today, majority of civil servants who spoke to The Guardian yesterday pleaded with government to extend the vaccination period to enable them go for it.

Also, the Association of Senior Civil Service of Nigeria (ASCSN) has urged the Federal Government to extend the lockout of unvaccinated workers from their offices till April 2022.

National President of the association, Dr Tommy Okon, who stated this in Abuja, yesterday, explained that the December 1 date was too short and could be counterproductive.

His words: “I think it is too early to ban unvaccinated workers from entering their offices. In as much as we agree that workers should be vaccinated because of the risks the virus poses to the whole of humanity, the approach government has adopted is also not the best.

“The Federal Government should give more time for workers to get the first and second doses. I think giving more time is the way to go. To say that workers cannot enter their offices until they show evidence of taking the jab will not help the situation.”

He hinted that the labour movement has been up and doing enlightening their members on the importance of taking the jab. Okon argued that the directive to workers from level one to 12 to resume on December 6, validates the call for an extension.

“The union has since begun the process of enlightening its members on the need for them to take the jab. Our complaint is also about the directive by the government issued to workers from level 12 downward to resume on Monday. This directive was issued barely a week ago and now the government is barring workers from entering their offices. What we are saying is that there is the need for government to give us more time,” he said.

Okon insisted that the next four months window would be enough to ensure all categories of workers were fully vaccinated, saying, “government knows that even those that have taken the first dose will need another six weeks to take the second jab.”

MEANWHILE, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed three cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the country. The centre had early yesterday morning, announced that two cases of Omicron variant have been recorded. But in a later statement also signed by the Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, NCDC confirmed three cases of the variant.

The statement added that sequencing of samples from COVID-19 positive inbound travellers is currently being conducted in laboratories with sequencing capacity in the country.

According to Adetifa, “the genomic surveillance has now identified and confirmed Nigeria’s first cases of the B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage, now known as the Omicron variant. Samples obtained for the stipulated day two test for all travellers to Nigeria were positive for this variant in three persons with a travel history to South Africa.

“These cases were recent arrivals in the country in the past week. Follow up to ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing and other relevant response activities have commenced. Arrangements are also being made to notify the country where travel originated according to the provisions of the International Health”, he added.

Omicron variant, which is a new strain of Coronavirus, was reported by South Africa and first detected in Botswana, stoking global fears about a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than five million people and ravaged economies worldwide.

Mass rush for COVID-19 vaccination by civil servants at the Federal Secretariat in  Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

The NCDC DG has, however, advised Nigerians to dismiss what he described as speculations that vaccines have no effect on the Omicron variant. He said vaccination remains “a very powerful tool to prevent transmission of the disease and death caused by this virus.”

“Theoretically speaking, if the vaccine was 90 per cent protective against severe disease and deaths from the Delta variant, it may become 80 per cent protective from the Omicron variant. So, while we work out what kind of impact it will have on vaccine protective effect, the point remains that vaccines are effective, safe and they confer protection,” Adetifa said.

He warned Nigerians of possible emergence of a more dangerous variant, and advised them to remain cautious by observing all non-pharmaceutical measures to ward off the danger, adding that the consequences may be bad if they throw caution to the wind.

He said the emergence of the Omicron variant is a reminder that the battle is not over, that there is still a risk. “The fact that we thankfully have not seen many severe cases and deaths does not mean that we are not getting infections and does not mean that the virus has not been transmitted.

“What happens is that if we have unmitigated transmission of virus within the population, you will always have a chance that a variant that may be more dangerous than the predecessor or even change the pattern of disease for us, may emerge.

“This is why we are calling on people to return and adhere to safety measures that are in place. And of course, vaccination, which is very important.”

The NCDC boss also explained that there is nothing strange about the mutation of the Omicron variant, saying all viruses mutate.

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) said, yesterday, that 23 countries across the world have reported cases of the highly mutated Omicron variant. “At least, 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron and we expect that number to grow,” WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told reporters during an update in Geneva.

“WHO takes this development extremely seriously and so should every country. But it should not surprise us,” Tedros continued. “This is what viruses do. And it’s what this virus will continue to do, as we long as we allow it to continue spreading.”

Ghebreyesus said there is still more to learn about the new variant’s effect on transmission, severity of disease and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines. Several WHO advisory groups have met in the last few days to “evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritise the studies needed to answer these questions,” he said.

He added that the highly transmissible Delta variant still accounts for almost all cases globally.

In a consensus decision aimed at protecting the world from future infectious diseases crises, WHO apex decision making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA), yesterday, agreed to kickstart a global process to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the former to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

Ghebreyesus said the decision by the WHA was historic in nature, vital in its mission, and represented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the global health architecture to protect and promote the wellbeing of all people.

Ghebreyesus said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the many flaws in the global system to protect people from pandemics: the most vulnerable people going without vaccines; health workers without needed equipment to perform their life-saving work; and ‘me-first’ approaches that stymie the global solidarity needed to deal with a global threat.

“But at the same time, we have seen inspiring demonstrations of scientific and political collaboration, from the rapid development of vaccines, to today’s commitment by countries to negotiate a global accord that will help to keep future generations safer from the impacts of pandemics.”

The Health Assembly met in a Special Session, the second-ever since WHO’s founding in 1948, and adopted a sole decision titled: “The World Together.” The decision by the Assembly establishes an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement, or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, with a view to adoption under Article 19 of the WHO Constitution, or other provisions of the Constitution as may be deemed appropriate by the INB.

Article 19 of the WHO Constitution provides the WHA with the authority to adopt conventions or agreements on any matter within WHO’s competence.

In this article