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Allow Our Medical Experts to Test COVID-19 Vaccines Coming in, Prelates in Nigeria

COVID-19 Vaccine

Catholic Bishops in Nigeria’s Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province have asked that medical experts in the West African country be allowed to subject COVID-19 vaccines coming into the country to independent tests to allay fears among the public about the safety of the coronavirus jab.

In a communiqué shared with ACI Africa earlier this week following their two-day meeting, the Catholic Bishops from Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province comprising Ibadan Archdiocese and Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osogbo Dioceses say that assurance from medical experts in Nigeria that the vaccines are safe would secure the confidence of the people.

“We strongly recommend that the authorities not allow anyone to use the COVID-19 pandemic for selfish gains or interests. We also plead that our medical experts be allowed to subject to appropriate test, the COVID-19 vaccines coming into Nigeria in order to secure the confidence of Nigerians so that they may willingly submit to the medication,” the Bishops say in their collective statement issued after their January 25-26 meeting at the Jubilee Conference Centre in Ibadan.

They note that it would be “immoral and unjust” to compel anyone to take the vaccine and urge relevant authorities to ensure that the people are well prepared ahead of the inoculation.

Nigeria is set to receive 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by early February, according to officials who have reported about the country’s preparedness to ship in the vaccine.

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In their two-day meeting, the Bishops addressed the COVID-19 situation in Nigeria, among other issues of importance to the people of God in the West African nation.

In the communiqué shared with ACI Africa, they lauded the government for putting in measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus and for ensuring that the country is not adversely affected.

“We commend the spirited effort of the government at Federal and State levels in providing facilities and regulations for confronting the pandemic at the onset and for support and palliatives arrangements for the vulnerable segments of our population,” they say.

The Church leaders go on to admonish people who have continued to ignore safety measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We however regret that to date, many Nigerians still conduct themselves in a risky manner, hardly observing any of the recommendations issued for their own safety. Seeing that the pandemic remains deadly, we plead with all Nigerians to keep themselves protected by following all the laid down rules meant for their own safety,” the Catholic Bishops in Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province say.

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They add, “We urge the authorities and the media to sustain public education and enlightenment, provide more testing centres so as to provide the public with sufficient facility and understanding of what is at stake.”

Discussions around COVID-19 vaccines in Africa have addressed accessibility and safety concerns, with experts and Religious leaders calling for caution in ordering and administering the vaccine.

Hundreds of laboratories have been working since the outbreak of the virus in search of a cure. Other procedures to get a vaccine have been hurried, according to The Africa Report

The report notes, “In less than a year, taking into consideration that the average vaccine development time is usually twelve years, twelve vaccines have been approved for public use and marketed in limited quantities to some 20 countries.”

The Africa Report further indicates that some countries, such as China and Russia, have skipped the classic stages of clinical trials, starting with phase III (large-scale tests on humans) without even completing phase II.

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The report notes that top manufacturers are scrambling to deliver vaccines to African countries, with China and Russia showing to be “particularly attentive to the continent’s needs.”

“As early as June, China’s number one, Xi Jinping, expressed his ‘generosity’ at the China-Africa summit by promising African countries that they would benefit from advantageous conditions during the massive distribution of Chinese vaccines,” The Africa Report says.

In Tanzania, President John Magufuli has warned the country's Health ministry against rushing to embrace COVID-19 vaccinations that are being promoted by foreign nations.

President Magufuli, a Catholic, said that any decision to adopt the vaccinations should not be taken lightly and directed the Ministry of Health to only adopt them after they have been certified by Tanzania’s own experts.

“The Health ministry must know that not every vaccination is meaningful to our nation. Tanzanians must be mindful so that we are not used for trials of some doubtful vaccinations which can have serious repercussions on our health,” President Magufuli has been quoted as saying.

He emphasized the need for Tanzanians to continue putting trust in God while taking all the necessary health precautions.

“We have lived for over one year without the virus because our God is able and Satan will always fail. The Health ministry should be cautious, and avoid the temptation to turn us into a country where vaccination trials are conducted freely,” President Magufuli said.

In South Africa, a Catholic Bishop has expressed concern about the lack of proper information on the COVID-19 vaccine that is set to be administered to South Africans to combat the coronavirus, which has been said to be fast spreading in the country.

In a past interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Joseph Kizito of South Africa’s Aliwal Diocese said that there is a lot of distorted information about the vaccine and that the situation was already causing a lot of anxiety among the people.

The Ugandan-born Bishop called upon the South African government to educate the masses on the safety and possible side effects of the vaccine.

“The only information that the people have about the COVID-19 vaccine is constructed from rumors because no one has provided them with proper information concerning the vaccine. Some are already saying that the vaccine is about globalization and that those who are inoculated will not be able to bear children,” Bishop Kizito told ACI Africa January 4.

He added, “As Shepherds of these people, we must get assurance about the safety of the vaccine to reassure the people. At the moment, there isn’t such information and we don’t know what to tell them.”

 There have also been concerns about hogging of the vaccines with some countries ordering more than what they need while other countries still struggle to create awareness about the vaccines.

As South Africa battles a highly infectious new mutation of COVID-19, the country's leading expert on the pandemic has urged wealthier nations not to hoard vaccine supplies, warning that “no-one is safe until everyone is safe.”

“Fundamentally, there's a mistaken belief by some countries that they can vaccinate their populations and they'll be safe,” Prof Salim Abdool Karim, chair of the South Africa’s COVID-19 advisory panel has been quoted as saying.

He added, “It simply is not true. In this world that we live in, with this coronavirus, no-one is safe until everyone is safe.”

The expert has expressed concern about some countries ordering more than they need while others are struggling to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“There's no endgame that sees one country succeeding in controlling the virus while the rest of the world is dealing with rampant spread. For me, we all need to stand together. It's in everyone's interests,” Prof Karim said.

He added, “To me it would be unconscionable that a country like the US or UK to start vaccinating low risk young people, when we here in Africa haven't even started vaccinating healthcare workers and the elderly.”