The first batch of nearly 4 million doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford Vaccine- a COVID-19 vaccine- was shipped to Abuja on March 2, 2021, through the COVAX Facility, a partnership between CEPI, GAVI, UNICEF, and WHO.
The COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Abuja, Nigeria amidst mixed reactions from people. There are suggestions from different quarters that the vaccine should be made compulsory since a lot of people are hesitant in taking the vaccine. The aim of the vaccine is for people to be immune to the novel virus and in some cases stop transmission altogether.
What the vaccine is expected to accomplish is to stimulate an immune response to an antigen (a molecule found in the virus). The antigen is usually found on the surface of the virus, which is ordinarily used to help overrun the human cells. At the moment, there are four main types of COVID-19 vaccine: Whole Virus, Protein Subunit, Viral Vector, and Nucleic Acid (RNA and DNA). However, there are more than 170 different vaccines on trial.
A poll was recently conducted in one of the Facebook groups I belong to, on those who were willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine and those who were not. The majority confirmed that they would not take the vaccine even if the government made it mandatory. A cursory look at the reasons people gave shows that people are afraid.
When the battle against COVID-19 started and the idea for a vaccine was conceived, the rumour mills spurned wildly that the target was Africa. Conspiracy theorists had it that the vaccines would be used to reduce the population of the Black continent since there seems to be a population explosion in the world. Another faction believed that the vaccine would cause infertility thereby reducing the productivity rate in Africa.
I researched by asking 10 people around me-at work, home and church-if they will take the vaccine and they all, apart from one person, said they would not. I asked the reason for their decision and got funny responses like, “It is a ploy by the advanced countries to reduce our population,” and “I will only take it when I see our leaders take it because one cannot trust those people”. While some still believe that COVID-19 in Nigeria is a hoax used by the people in government to siphon resources from the coffers of the government. All efforts to make them think otherwise were futile.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an illness caused by the novel coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2; formerly called 2019nCoV). It was first identified when there was an outbreak of respiratory illness in Wuhan City, Hubel Province, China. COVID-19 was first reported to World Health Organisation (WHO) on December 31, 2019. It was then declared by WHO as a global health emergency on January 30, 2020.
Cases of the virus range from asymptomatic/mild symptoms to severe illness and mortality. Symptoms may develop 2 days to 2 weeks after exposure to the virus. As of March 10, 2021, there have been 117,332,262 confirmed cased of COVID-19, with 2,605,356 deaths recorded.
According to Wikipedia and JHU CSSE COVID-19 Data, Nigeria now have more than 160,000 reported cases, over 140,000 people have recovered with over 1,993 deaths have been recorded so far. It’s as clear as day that the number of infections is not slowing down but seems to be climbing meteorically as the days go by.
The preventive measures of lockdown, face mask, hand wash, and social distancing seem not to be working, and the question is, for how long are we going to continue like this? As it is, the only solution to the gradual return to normal life is by having everyone vaccinated against the much-dreaded virus.
WHO reported that as of March 9, 2021, a total of 268,205,255 vaccine doses have been administered globally.
MYTHS VS FACTS
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in women.
Fact: Misinformation on social media suggests the vaccine trains the body to attack syncytin-1, a protein in the placenta, which could lead to infertility in women. The reality is that there’s no amino acid sequence shared between the spike protein and placental protein; however, experts say it’s too short to trigger an immune response and therefore doesn’t affect fertility.
Myth: You can be infected with COVID-19 from the vaccine.
Fact: The vaccine doesn’t contain the live virus, and so, you cannot be infected with the virus through the vaccine.
Myth: I am not at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 so I don’t need the vaccine
Fact: Regardless of your risk, you can still contract the infection and spread it to others, therefore, it is imperative that you get vaccinated.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine will alter one’s DNA
Fact: The first vaccines granted emergency use authorizations contain messenger RNA (mRNA), which instructs cells to make the “spike protein: found on the new coronavirus. The immune system is expected to recognize the protein and then build an immune response by creating antibodies, which will train the body on how to protect against future infection. The mRNA doesn’t enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is found. (source:muhealth.org)
OPTIONAL OR MANDATORY?
Some people’s invincible belief in the above myths and more has made them wary of taking the vaccine. Consequently, making it mandatory for such people to take the vaccine would only confirm their fears.
The ideal thing is to create awareness of how safe the vaccine is. Tell the people what they stand to gain by taking the vaccine. Let them know that the world would be a better place if we all agree to take the vaccine. At least, it will bring an end to the lockdown that has been looming on us for a while now; it will also bring an end to the use of face masks, carrying sanitizers around, too much hand washing, and social distancing. We would be able to attend gatherings freely without fear of going back home with the virus. If not, we still have a long way to go.
Are we not all looking forward to that time where the fear of COVID-19 would be a forgotten issue?
Please think about it.
Roselyn Sho – Olajide works with an Audit Firm in Jos, Plateau State. She loves reading and writing and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org