By Benjamin Omoike
There is possibility of the fourth wave of Coronavirus (COVID-19) as the Yuletide approaches, Lagos State Government declared on Wednesday.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, however, launched a mass vaccination campaign as part of the strategies to stave off re-emergence of the viral infection. The objective is aimed at vaccinating four million residents in Lagos before the end of the year.
The immunisation programme was flagged off with a symbolic event held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island. Residents of Lagos, who are 18 years and above are eligible to be fully immunised with the COVID-19 vaccine.
The accelerated vaccine rollout is tagged: “Operation Count Me in 4 Million Lagosians Vaccinated Against COVID-19” and it is being undertaken by Lagos State Government in collaboration with National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
The Governor believed the mass vaccination campaign would help bolster the State’s response to the emerging threat posed by the pandemic.
Sanwo-Olu said the joint committee set up by the Lagos State Government and NPHCDA to oversee the implementation of the campaign would be opening vaccination sites in high traffic locations as part of the strategies to expand vaccine access in underserved communities. Mobile vans, the Governor added, would be deployed to move round boundary settlements in order to reach individuals in areas with limited access to health facilities.
He said: “There is potential for the fourth wave of COVID-19, as our borders would be opened to all people coming into Lagos in December. To prevent the catastrophic events we witnessed in the previous waves, the State has developed a robust vaccination drive, leveraging on both the strengths we have in the public and private sectors of our healthcare system. In development of our strategy and counter-measures, we prioritise the protection of human lives and keeping our economy open for business.
“To mitigate against this potential damage that will further spread existing variants of COVID-19 in the State, and accelerate efforts towards herd immunity, the need for a different strategy became a front burner issue. This is what has culminated in the campaign, tagged ‘Count Me In! 4 million Lagosians Vaccinated Against COVID-19’ to target the full vaccination of 4 million Lagos residents before the end of December 2021. Once achieved, this will bring the State closer to reaching our promise to vaccinate 30 percent of our population within one year.”
Since March when Lagos started its vaccination programme, Sanwo-Olu said the State had successfully vaccinated 800,000 residents with the first dose of Moderna vaccine and 310,000 persons fully vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
This, he said, sums total number of residents vaccinated with the first dose of either AstraZeneca or Moderna to 1.2 million, while raising the number of fully vaccinated individuals to 550,000, which accounts for about four per cent of the State’s population.
Sanwo-Olu re-emphasised that the vaccines being administered are safe and remain free of charge in public health facilities. The Governor, however, said an administrative charge of N6,000 would be paid by individuals who wish to get the vaccines at approved private facilities.
The Governor charged all stakeholders, including the local council chairmen, to mobilise for participation in the programme and ensure the success of the campaign.
He said: “We have set up COVID-19 vaccination in all our 205 public primary health centres, 14 of the State’s second and tertiary hospitals, and we are hoping that this partnership can be implemented in over 400 private health centres across seven underserved Local Government Areas in the State.
“Let me re-emphasise that we are not compelling anyone to get vaccinated. But, we want everyone to take it as personal responsibility, which is highly important. What we seek to achieve by this campaign is to ensure there is access to the vaccines and availability. Then, give people an opportunity to get vaccinated at centres close to them. This will give nobody a reason not to get the vaccines.”
Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, described the vaccination campaign as “ambitious”, saying the State Government had put in place two-pronged approach to prevent the fourth wave of the pandemic.
“The first step is to control the in-bound flight passengers and maintain adherence to all preventive measures that have been put in place, while the second step is to closely monitor the isolation of those coming from the red zone area,” Abayomi said.
NPHCDA Executive Director, Dr. Shuaib Faisal, disclosed that only 2,950,232 Nigerians had been fully vaccinated, which is a far cry from reaching the target number for herd immunity.
He said: “We have enough vaccines in storage to give many people the opportunity to get vaccinated. We now have the jabs, but we now need the arms.”
The campaign kicked off with symbolic vaccination of Mr. Okeke Onyeama, a private security guard, who was inoculated in presence of the Governor and NPHCDA boss.