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Kaduna joins FG, Edo, Ondo to bar unvaccinated civil servants from offices

By Chukwuma Muanya (Deputy Editor, Health)
20 October 2021   |   4:15 am
The Kaduna State government, yesterday, announced a 12-day ultimatum for all civil servants in the state to receive COVID-19 vaccine in the latest of compulsory vaccination push embarked on by the Federal and some state governments.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 07, 2021 a syringe is filled with a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP)

• Insists on facemasks, gives October deadline
• Tomori, Ashiru, Ayebae back FG, say mandatory vaccination limits spread, reduces new variants
• Chukwunenye, Ubani say compulsory vaccination violates existing labour terms, rights of civil servants

The Kaduna State government, yesterday, announced a 12-day ultimatum for all civil servants in the state to receive COVID-19 vaccine in the latest of compulsory vaccination push embarked on by the Federal and some state governments.

The ultimatum was announced in a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adekeye. According to him, all civil servants are expected to be vaccinated by October 31, after which they will be denied entry into government offices if found not to have complied with the directive.

“The Kaduna State government will from October 31, 2021 require compliance with COVID-19 protocols, especially facemasks and vaccination, for access to its offices,” the statement reads.

Visitors will, however, be permitted entry upon presentation of evidence of registration with the state Ministry of Health for vaccination, while wearing their facemasks.

The statement read: “As it continues to balance public health considerations and the safe pursuit of livelihoods, the government is constantly monitoring COVID-19 infections in the state and reviewing the pattern of spread.

“Based on these reviews, the state COVID-19 task force has advised the government that the risk of mass infection remains. This necessitates that careful attention must be paid to continued enforcement of preventive measures and encouraging residents of Kaduna State to practice personal responsibility more consistently.

“This is in line with the forward campaign launched last year to help citizens adopt preventive measures as the state reopened after months of lockdown.

“The commencement of vaccinations against COVID-19 is the most significant development in the public health space since the virus began its tragic worldwide spread. Thus far, only a minority of Nigerians have been vaccinated against COVID-19 because of supply issues.

“But there is no such constraint against universal compliance by all residents of Kaduna with the simple tests outlined in the FORWARD campaign: wear Facemasks, Observe physical distance, practice Respiratory hygiene, Wash hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitiser, Avoid large gatherings, Remain indoors as much as possible and eat immunity-boosting Diets.

“The Ministry of Health has since commenced the vaccination of all civil servants, and this is expected to be completed by 31st October. All civil servants are required to be vaccinated by that date.”

MEANWHILE, the directive by the Federal Government, last Wednesday, on compulsory vaccination for civil servants in the country on or before December 1, 2021, is still generating debates and controversy.

In fact, Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Monday Ubani, last Saturday, said that he would not hesitate to drag the Federal Government to court if it goes ahead to enforce the directive on compulsory vaccination for civil servants in the country.

Recall that Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and chairman Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, had last week announced that all civil servants in Nigeria shall with effect from December 1, show proof of vaccination or present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result done within 72 hours to gain access to their various offices within Nigeria and Missions abroad.

A consultant virologist and Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewole Tomori, told The Guardian that unlike in previous circumstances, he backs the Federal Government on mandatory vaccination.

Tomori, who is also a consultant to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and pioneer Vice Chancellor of Redeemer’s University Ede, Osun State, said: “I have on several occasions disagreed with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF)/Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on some of their orders, however, on this one, they have my support. The government has made it easy for civil servants to access the vaccine by providing sufficient number of doses and is giving the civil servants up to December 1 to get vaccinated.

“The purpose of mandatory vaccination is to limit the spread of the virus through uncontrolled human transmission and thereby reduce the development of new variants. Immunity developed after vaccination against the existing/original virus strain may not be so effective or protective against the new variants. Therefore the less or complete absence of new variants is to all our advantage.”

On whether the directive violates fundamental human rights of civil servants, Tomori said: “Those who have medical contraindications for not taking the vaccine have the right not to be infected by those who refuse to take the vaccines for other non-medical reasons.”

It is the balance of the right of the majority over that of the individual. In any case, the government is giving conditions for entering public premises and buildings, just as organisations have rules and regulations for those permitted to enter their premises. In addition, those who prefer not take the vaccines, have the choice of providing negative laboratory tests only twice in a week.”

Medical Director of Optimal Specialist Hospital, Gbaja Street Surulere, Dr. Ugochukwu Celestine Chukwuneye, said mandatory vaccination hitherto has been focused on high-risk groups to contain the disease.

“For example, if one is travelling out of one’s country to another, the country being visited may insist one is vaccinated against yellow fever before entering their country, especially if the traveller is from the yellow fever belt. Within the same country, there is no such demand or compulsion for yellow fever vaccination.”

Chukwunenye, who is also a consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, said mandatory vaccination for COVID-19 is strange, in that it is a new vaccine, it has not passed through the standard medical certification process, and it is being enforced within the country of origin or normal residence of the people being mandatorily vaccinated appears to be a violation of the fundamental human rights of individuals who are not interested in being vaccinated. He said to deny such persons access to work and to earn a living will be counter productive, increase vaccine resistance and heighten suspicion of hidden agenda.”

He added that the physical preventive measures- wearing of face masks, use of hand sanitizers, frequent hand washing with soap and potable water, social distancing- can be made mandatory in government offices.

Chukwunenye said insisting on COVID-19 tests or vaccination before entering government offices is absolutely unnecessary, unacceptable and an overkill.

Medical Director, Medical Art Centre (MART) Maryland Lagos and Joint Pioneer of Test Tube Baby/In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) in Nigeria, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, said over the years, vaccines had been developed and they are mandatory or one pays the consequences. For example, he said small pox, polio, measles, and yellow fever vaccines have evolved and were widely received with no objections and Yellow cards were adopted for travels.

Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), Dr. Fidelis Ayebae, told The Guardian: “Like polio, smallpox, chickenpox, measles, etc. this virus can be managed/controlled by mass vaccination. It is the only way out. I wish those that died had the opportunity of the choice that is available to us today, vaccination! A majority will be alive today,” he said.

Prof. Julian Savulescu of Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom (UK), in a correspondence published in Journal of Medical Ethics said “mandatory vaccination, including for COVID-19, can be ethically justified if the threat to public health is grave, the confidence in safety and effectiveness is high, the expected utility of mandatory vaccination is greater than the alternatives, and the penalties or costs for non-compliance are proportionate. I describe an algorithm for justified mandatory vaccination. Penalties or costs could include withholding of benefits, imposition of fines, provision of community service or loss of freedoms.”