By Alao Abiodun
Lagos, being the epicenter of the virus pandemic in the country, is also the centre of the vaccination programme having received over 500,000 doses.
In fairness, a visit to some of centres designated for the vaccine exercise in Lagos, revealed the level of preparedness and provisions made by the Lagos state government in ensuring a smooth process.
Without the ‘man-no-man’ style, the phase 1 vaccination exercise as observed in some of the centres visited were in line with the eligible persons including healthcare workers, COVID-19 response team (RRT), military, police and other security agencies, petrol station workers, teachers, press and other frontline workers accredited for the exercise.
These centres including; C.M.S Primary Health Centre, Bariga, Mushin Papa Ajao Palm Avenue PHC and Shomolu Igbari Akoka PHC were visited for first hand-assessment.
Interacting with some persons who received the COVID-19 vaccine, they noted that it was a tremendous sense of relief especially amid the different speculations arising from the vaccine.
As observed in the centres visited, many were seen adorning their nose masks and maintaining social distancing but however the intermittent arrival of security agencies and strategic leaders, forced the waiting line of individuals to exercise ‘longer’ patience.
Noticeably, there were peculiar issues observed at the various centres visited, and with the interaction with some health workers and those who received the vaccines, it corroborated the findings made below:
While there is a vaccination implementation plan to ensure a successful exercise, there were ‘few people’ who came for the vaccination as observed in some of these centres visited at the time of this report.
This appears to be that there is a ‘growing apathy’ among the populace, who for different reasons, said they would not be taking the vaccines.
Across the centres visited, most elderly persons and more women turned out for the vaccine exercise.
The issue of vaccine hesitancy is one aspect that should be watched out for because WHO had last year identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the leading threats to global health.
The state government must partner with the civil societies to launch aggressive, conscious and coordinated vaccination campaigns especially ahead of the second phase. With this, vaccine hesitancy will reduce significantly.
No proper ‘mapping’ of process
In the centres visited, there was no proper mapping of the vaccination process. Although there were outlined steps before the vaccines were administered, the places from the point of ‘entry’ to the point of ‘exit’ were not properly mapped out for people to adhere to.
Instead of a properly mapped out process, people sit clustered to a particular place specifically under a tent which is outdoor with health workers facing the recipients.
A vaccination process template should be well thought out.
The waiting area where people get seated, then to the point of registration, then to the point of e-capturing and then to the point where the vaccine will be received and finally the exit route.
Inadequate public/general counselling
As observed at the centres visited, there was a deficiency in terms of ‘public/general counseling’ of those to be vaccinated before the process.
Health care providers can positively influence vaccine acceptance.
They are important counsellors who are expected to explain how the vaccines work, and to make recommendations for the vaccination of specific populations.
These evidence-based recommendations when effectively communicated, can mean the difference between whether a patient gets vaccinated or not especially with one’s health conditions.
The pre-vaccination counselling provides an opportunity for the vaccine recipient to ask questions.
Many of the recipients were not properly equipped with the necessary information about the vaccine before it was administered.
The public counselling of those to be vaccinated before the process should be done in both English language and the local dialects.
Slow ‘capturing’ process
As observed in the centres visited, there were hitches with the electronic capturing of Health Care and essential workers.
The exercise which is supposed to be a seamless process was marred by technical hitches at some points.
Some were unable to complete the capturing process almost immediately as they were asked to wait due to poor network and server issues.
Low awareness at vaccination sites
There is thus a place for intensified advocacy by the relevant stakeholders to ensure the right message is passed on by the government to the populace.
Some of the centres visited, lacked pictorial information about the COVID-19 protocols and the necessary information to simplify the vaccination exercise.
However, while notable community leaders and political leaders (strategic leaders), were openly vaccinated at centres, it was observed that religious leaders were not included.
This enlightenment should also extend to religious leaders who will in turn advise their congregations/followers, many of whom fuel scepticism about the safety of the vaccines so they can understand the risk-benefit ratio of taking the vaccine is in favour of keeping safe and healthy.
In all, there is a need for more awareness that will be localized for the community people hence, the local government should do more town meetings that will boost community sensitizations around the community using the Polio immunization template.
Recall that it was the involvement of religious and traditional leaders that aided the successful uptake of the polio vaccine.
Also, various local governments should also work with CDA’s to disseminate pieces of information with their respective wards.