By Mohammed Ismail, Yola
The incursion of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic into Adamawa State in 2020 has brought a seismic paradigm shift in the lives of the inhabitants of the state.
In their attempts to curb the spread of the deadly and highly contagious viral disease, the state government, the federal government and even the international community took far reaching measures culminating in the imposition of lock downs and travel restrictions with very severe and debilitating consequences on livelihood of many across the world.
Scientists all over the world rose to the occasion by engaging in deep research to proffer solutions to the egregious disease that has made global life short and brutish and claimed millions of lives across the world.
The efforts of the researchers paid premiums in a rare show of precision and excellent scientific feat leading to the formulation of a potent vaccination in order to curb further fatalities and economic dislocation.
Although the disease has left in its trail a monumental havoc to lives mostly in western and eastern countries, the effect and death was minimal in Africa, Nigeria and Adamawa State as only a handful died during the peak of the pandemic compared to what obtains in the rest of the world.
But the introduction of COVID-19 vaccination was initially rejected in many Nigerian states perhaps on the strength that many thought it was a disease mainly for the western world because of its mild effect on the African continent which would have witnessed catastrophic consequences due to poor health infrastructure had the disease wrought the same fury it visited on the rest of the world.
On that strength coupled with morbid speculations and conspiracy theories many people in Africa and Nigeria became increasingly doubtful about the rationale of hoisting the vaccine on Africa despite the mild impact of the disease on the populace.
Some of the speculations, myths and conspiracy theories that have shrouded the introduction of the vaccine in Nigeria include the speculation that it is a birth control mechanism, it is a tool of population decimation et all.
The same speculations have in the wake of the vaccine’s introduction in Yola South took the polity by storm leading to its outright rejection by a large creme of the populace.
Corroborating the rejection of the vaccination at inception, the district head of Yola and Cikasoron Adamawa, Alhaji Muhammadu Ahmad Mustapha said the vaccination was initially recieved with a pinch of salt due to the wide spread speculations around it.
But he noted that the involvement of the traditional institution saved the day due to the high reverence, respect and confidence which it cultivated with the people over the years.
Mustapha noted that before the intervention of the traditional institution, the people were not cooperating with the vaccinators, leading to low output.
“One of the major hiccups the vaccination had initially has to do with the non involvement of the traditional institution. But later the traditional institution was brought into the picture after our meeting with the officials of the primary healthcare agency and everything changed.
“Part of the measures we took is to lead by example as we publicly get vaccinated. Secondly, we are always operating on the same page with the people and over the years we have won their confidence and thirdly we embarked on house to house mobilization.
“For instance, in Yola South, I have to summon all the village heads and ward heads to a meeting where we asked them to enlighten their people on the need to be vaccinated. We told them all the subjects of Lamido have received a jab of the vaccine and it is very safe for all. The people naturally complied because of the confidence and trust they had in us,” he said.
Mustapha noted that apart from the supervisory role the ward and village heads provided, he has made it a point of duty to go round all the centers to ensure that the people are complying, noting that such drive also enhanced the success of the exercise.
He added that another communication method they used in getting good results is by waxing practical using immunization as a ready made tool.
“We always tell them that the people who availed us with immunization against the five killer diseases are the same people who brought the COVID-19 vaccination.
“We used the successes recorded by the immunization against the five killer diseases to tell our people that the COVID-19 vaccination is safe because it is brought by the same people.
“Since everyone know the efficacy of the immunization which led to the defeat of child killer diseases, the people became increasingly willful to be part of the exercise,” he said.
The monarch added that contrary to wild speculations that the vaccination has debilitating side effects, it is actually safe and even where such complaints are made they are very mild.
“I can authoritatively confirm to you that I have gone round all the wards to see for myself whether the vaccine has any severe side effect but up till now I have not come across any serious case. So this development also gave our people the confidence to avail themselves for the immunization leading to the success of the exercise,” he said.
In the same breadth, the leader of village heads of Yolde Pate, in Yola South local government, Alhaji Muhammadu Jingi disclosed that initially, administering COVID-19 vaccination was a daunting task because majority of the people did not believe COVID-19 pandemic was real.
Jingi said most of the people resisted the vaccination due to rumours to the effect that it is a mechanism by the western world to bring strange diseases on the people.
“When we started the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, people especially those in the hinterland resisted it saying they are hale and hearty and do not want the vaccine.
“Their stand has to do with wild speculations that the whole arrangement is a machination by the western world to afflict the developing countries with strange diseases,” he said.
He noted that as a result of the challenge, he has to convene a meeting with all the four village heads and twenty four ward heads of Yolde Pate where they resolved to start massive campaign against those myths.
“It was resolved that as leaders we must lead by example by taking the jab first. Myself and all the village and ward heads were the first to recieve the vaccination in the presence of our followers.
“We then decided to take the enlightenment visits to all the wards where we told them that the vaccination is not harmful since it did not harm us in any way.
“With our persistence and subtle message of hope, many people yielded especially against the backdrop that taking the vaccine has the potential to prevent all from getting or spreading the deadly disease,” he said.
Jingi noted that there is now a renewed interest by the people to gat vaccinated as they are now willingly availing themselves for the vaccine.
“Most people who got vaccinated have been attesting that they are better off health wise than before taking it. The encouraging story has prodded many to come forward for the vaccination.
“As I’m talking to you, people are willingly coming to me requesting to be vaccinated. Even this morning about five people came here requesting to be vaccinated and I directed them to the healthcare center. People even call me on phone requesting information on where to go to have the jab,” he said.
He noted that with the renewed awareness around the vaccination, he is optimistic that the whole area will be covered soon as the speculations around the vaccination has been nixed by time and the reality that the vaccination is not harmful.
But debunking the speculations around the vaccination, a 63-year-old recipient of the vaccine who resides in Wuro Hausa, Yola South local government of Adamawa State, Malam Garba Ahmed said after recieving the vaccine he became healthier and stronger.
Ahmed said because of the improvement in his health status, he became an advocate of the vaccination and influenced no fewer than 25 family heads to take the jab despite wild and negative myths around the vaccination.
Ahmed said from the beginning he developed positive attitude towards the vaccination as he believed it is meant to save lives refused to listen to the negative speculations and went ahead to have his first jab noting that he has not regretted doing that.
“I was amazed by the improvement of my health status after recieving the first jab because I became even healthier and stronger after the jab.
“I instantly became an advocate of the vaccination as I told my friends and family members to go for the jab before it was too late.
“As a result of that about 25 heads of families accepted my counsel and got the first jab. Some of them later came to thank me for the advise as they also said they became healthier and stronger,” Ahmed said.
He noted that those spreading the falsehood against the vaccination were later put to shame as all those who received the vaccination became even healthier.
“Those that were spreading falsehood against the vaccination where put to shame and later had to eat their vomit as none of us encountered any health challenge after taking the jab. In fact to the amazement of the naysayers, our health status became even better.
“I want to tell you I haven’t had even malaria symptoms since I received the COVID-19 vaccination let alone a major health challenge. I also want to state that all those who took the jab are healthier now.
“So all of us have taken the second and the booster jabs and we are grateful to the authorities for availing the vaccine at no cost to us,” he said.
Also agreeing with Ahmed, a COVID-19 vaccinator working with Lamido Aliyu Mustapha clinic in Makama A ward, Yola South LGA, Yushau Hammayel, said only about 10 percent of those who received the vaccination complain of mild side effects.
Hammayel said some of the side effects presented include; Headache, fever, and vomiting amongst others.
In an exclusive interview with our reporter, Hammayel said so far, the negative perception about the vaccination has waned leading to unprecedented results.
“Our daily target coverage is 70 people but sometimes we vaccinate between 80 to 100 people or more,” he said.
He said the success of the operation is ascribable to the trainings the vaccinators got and the sustained sensitization of the public by stakeholders which led to a change of attitude towards the pandemic.
“Initially we encountered some challenges over some rumours associated with the vaccine. Some said after the vaccine, you will have metal deposit in your body especially around your shoulders. Some said it was meant to decimate the population of Africa while some said it is a birth control mechanism.
“But after much campaign and sensitization, people later accepted that the vaccine was harmless especially since those who were administered the vaccine are hale and hearty. Some of them even said they feel stronger and healthier after recieving the vaccination,” he said.
He said at the starting of the vaccination, they hardly get 20 people in a day noting that the situation has changed for the better as they administer the vaccine on 80 – 100 people overshooting the target of 70 people they are given.
Hammayel said with the renewed awareness around the pandemic, people are willingly coming forward for the vaccine making their job even easier.
“Sometimes people call me on phone to tell me they will come for the vaccine and sometimes we meet them at the clinic. This has a tremendous impact on the overall success of the exercise,” he said.
He noted that since the beginning of the exercise, the have vaccinated no fewer than 12,000 people out of the 39,400 eligible persons in the last one year adding that with the tempo of success, very soon they will attain the 70 percent target of eligible persons.
He noted that in his area of coverage, Makama A, more women have been vaccinated because of the sensitization they recieve during immunization.
“More women recieve the vaccine in our catchment area because we usually sensitize them on the need to have the vaccine during immunization and on other visits. We use to tell them that before people reject T.T based on similar speculations but now they buy it with their own money. On the strength and validity of our arguments, the women always come forward to recieve the vaccine,” he said.
He urged the people to maintain the tempo of recieving the vaccination as there is enough of the vaccine to go round.
Also speaking about the successes of the vaccination, the Monitoring and Evaluation officer of COVID-19 vaccination in Yola South, Aliyu Adamu said about 99,967 people in Yola South local government of Adamawa State recieved COVID-19 vaccination
According to him the total coverage has made Yola South local government the second most successful local government in terms of the administration of the COVID-19 vaccination.
He noted that statistics has revealed that more men came forward for the vaccination in the local government but following intensive awareness, the female are also responding to the call and getting vaccinated.
Adamu added that one effective strategy they used to achieve the result is by embarking on house-to-house campaign leading to the acceptability of the exercise.
He said the local government has been overshooting its target of 70 people per vaccination point leading to the overall success of the exercise.
He noted that out of those so far covered, none presented with a serious or adverse reaction adding that only an insignificant number presented mild reaction noting that such development has also led to the acceptability of the vaccination.
Adamu expressed optimism that in the nearest future, Yola South team will lead the state in terms of coverage as they have emplaced modalities to ensure aggressive coverage in the months to come.
He enjoined the people to continue to accord the vaccinators the necessary cooperation to succeed in the exercise because it is for the good of all.
The M&E officer noted that the vaccine is trusted and reliable as it has been certified by WHO, NAFDAC and other relevant regulatory bodies across the world.