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Nigerian Bishop Dismisses Skepticism Toward COVID-19 Vaccines as “propaganda”

Bishop Callistus Valentine Onaga of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu in Nigeria holds his vaccination card after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

A Catholic Bishop in Nigeria has dismissed skepticism toward COVID-19 vaccines as “propaganda” and encouraged the people of God in the West African nation to get vaccinated.

“Forget all the propaganda going around; we have taken other vaccines for yellow fever and the rest,” Bishop Callistus Valentine Onaga has been quoted as saying in a Tuesday, March 30 news report.

Bishop Onaga who had just lead members of the Clergy, Seminarians and staff members serving at his residence in receiving the first round of the AstraZeneca vaccine urged Nigerians “to go for this (vaccine) so we can stem the spread of this thing (COVID-19).”

“We are appealing to everyone, every Catholic and every Christian to go and take this vaccine,” the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Enugu Diocese said, adding that the jab will “help us worship better and will help us return to normalcy.”

Some Nigerians have raised concerns about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. For instance, In February, the Archbishop of Abuja in Nigeria, noted, “Many in Nigeria ask if the vaccines are medically safe.”

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“Are the vaccines safe or are they a means to control the population growth of Africans?” Archbishop Kaigama posed during the February 7 Eucharistic celebration.

The 62-year-old Nigerian Archbishop recommended that medical experts in the country “ensure that the vaccines have been subjected to appropriate tests for genuineness and are properly stored, to allay the fear of contamination.”

In January, Bishops in Nigeria’s Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province called on medical experts in the country to independently test the COVID-19 vaccines so as to allay fears among the public about their safety. 

“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,” said the Local Ordinaries of Ibadan Archdiocese and Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osogbo Dioceses.

Some 3.92 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Africa’s most populous nation on March 2.

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Health workers and first responders in the military and other security agencies have been given priority in the first phase of the vaccination campaign that kicked off March 5.

After the first round of the inoculation, adults above 50 years of age, starting with those aged 60 years and older are expected to be vaccinated.

Those aged between 18 and 49 years of age with underlying health conditions will be targeted in the third phase of the vaccination of campaign. 

Nigeria has recorded 162,762 cases of the disease including 2,056 deaths and 151,532 recoveries. 

In the March 30 report, Bishop Onaga expresses joy for the “opportunity to take this vaccine” and goes on to “advise everyone who loves his life and is a child of God to do the same.”

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Speaking after Bishop Onaga had been vaccinated, the Executive Secretary of Enugu State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. George Ugwu, assured the people of the vaccine’s safety saying they have not “heard any severe adverse effect” from the “nearly ten thousand (10,000) residents of Enugu State who have been vaccinated.”

He expressed the hope that “by vaccinating His Lordship, other people will see the need to get vaccinated and prevent this pandemic from spreading, as well as protect lives.”