Vaccine shortage, hesitancy may affect herd immunity efforts – NSSF

The Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund, a private-sector-led institution born out of a partnership between the Global Citizen and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, has identified vaccine shortage and hesitancy as some of the factors that may affect the country’s quest to achieve COVID-19 herd immunity.

Speaking at a webinar on Tuesday, the General Manager of NSSF, Dr Fejiro Chinye-Nwoko, said the coalition planned to procure one million vaccines for the country’s vulnerable and hard-to-reach population.

“NSSF has decided to assist in vaccinating one million vulnerable Nigerians. We intend to partner organisations to purchase more vaccines for the country. We also intend to look into the vaccine hesitancy issue in Nigeria. A lot of people are not willing to take the vaccine or maybe they are not aware of the benefits of the vaccine, so, they are a bit reluctant to get vaccinated.

“The institution believes that everyone should have access to quality and affordable health care services when they need it, young Nigerians should be enabled with opportunities for self-empowerment and well-skilled for a post-COVID era and that the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, and marginalised groups in Nigeria should not be left behind.

“Nobody anticipated that the pandemic will still be ongoing by now; we saw the need to join forces to address the current pandemic. We came up with the idea to assist with COVID-19 vaccination, knowing full well that in order to stop the pandemic there is the need to achieve herd immunity.

“There are several ways to end the pandemic; we saw what the government was able to do with the lockdown in our country. However, that was not the most effective way to stop the pandemic. Another strategy is to build more Intensive Care Units and procure more oxygen for patients with severe cases. We all know that there is a limit to what we can do as regards this because of the limited resources. So, the best way to curb the spread of the COVID-19 is through vaccination,” Chinye-Nwoko said.

She noted that the coalition was formed to solve the post-COVID-19 impact on the health and economic sector in Nigeria. We did this because we know that post COVID-19, there will be a lot of things to deal with in terms of the economy and the health system in Nigeria.

“We came up with three objectives, the first was to assist the vulnerable population in Nigeria, those who will be most hit by the pandemic in Nigeria with vaccination. The second objective is to strengthen the health system. We know that that out of all the sectors that have been impacted by COVID-19, the health sector is one of them. The third objective is to re-skill the youths to regain economic stability. The pandemic has caused many people to lose their means of livelihood. So, we came with the objective to make the youths to be more economically competitive in the post-COVID-19 era,” the NSSF general manager said.

The World Health Organisation on its website noted that “herd immunity against COVID-19 should be achieved by protecting people through vaccination, not by exposing them to the pathogen that causes the disease.

“Vaccines train our immune systems to create proteins that fight disease, known as ‘antibodies,’ just as would happen when we are exposed to a disease but – crucially – vaccines work without making us sick. Vaccinated people are protected from getting the disease in question and passing on the pathogen, breaking any chains of transmission. Visit our webpage on COVID-19 and vaccines for more detail.

“To safely achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, a substantial proportion of a population would need to be vaccinated, lowering the overall amount of virus able to spread in the whole population. One of the aims of working towards herd immunity is to keep vulnerable groups who cannot get vaccinated safe and protected from the disease.”

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