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‘Be first to take coronavirus vaccine’ – CAN tells government officials

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has demanded that planned COVID-19 vaccination should begin with President Muhammadu Buhari and other government officials.

The demand came just as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, advised Christian leaders not to take COVID-19 conspiracy theorists seriously

CAN also state the need for officials to be vaccinated publicly to encourage citizens on the validity of the vaccine.

The association made the demands on Wednesday as it commended the President for signing COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations Bill 2021.

CAN President, Rev Dr. Samson Ayokunle, in a statement at a meeting organised by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) to sensitise Christian Religious leaders on COVID-19 vaccine in Abuja, noted that there had been conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines and that the fears would be dispelled if officials take the vaccination first.

“We have to do vaccination by example, all the people in authority must do their vaccination publicly under the watch of national television stations like Channels and AIT. Don’t do it in the secret, don’t go to Aso Rock and do it, we want to see you on Channels, AIT, it is after you have got your own that I will get it. When people see that we have done it like that, the fear factor will be removed and we will get that breakthrough we are looking for. A lot of publicity campaigns have to be done through the churches, mosques and markets before the introduction of the vaccine to disabuse the minds of our people and to make them accept the vaccines”.

He encouraged Christian leaders to obey all protocols and warned reckless confidence as being shown by some faith leaders, who dismissed the existence of the virus.

“If you love your congregation, this is the time to teach them restraint, that is the way of wisdom. If COVID-19 is a joke, why is it killing people in advanced nations where they have strong health infrastructure, Britain and America are under the siege of COVID-19.

Adding that “The grace we enjoy is making us take things for granted, and the grace of God should not be taken for lasciviousness. Listen to experts and obey all they asked us to do”.

On the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations Bill 2021, Ayokunle said it is the way to go. He observed that his tour of Abuja revealed that most residents moved about without face masks and breached other protocols.

While commending the President for signing the law, he called for effective enforcement.

“Nigeria needs to fight this common enemy called COVID-19 through enforcement, enforce the law, especially in unorganised markets which poses the great potential of spreading the virus rapidly. Nigeria needs to fight this common enemy called COVID-19 through enforcement, especially in the unorganised markets, motor parks etc”, he added.

Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha in his address told the religious leaders that Nigeria, like the rest of the world, had been experiencing the more infectious second wave, which increased the number of COVID-19 related deaths from 1173 on November 29, 2020, to 1,578 on January 31, 2021, an increase of 34 per cent.

The SGF observed that global infections had exceeded 100 million while fatalities had crossed two million.

He noted that the arrival of vaccines has however given hope to humanity that a solution had been found, adding that this does not, however, mean that the NPIs will be discarded.

The SGF emphasized that nobody is safe around the world until everyone is vaccinated and this informed government’s decision to sensitise and seek the inputs of religious leaders on the strategy to be jointly adopted and the role they will play in carrying the message on vaccines to Christians.

He expressed worry that Nigeria is facing challenges of scepticism about the virus; lack of compliance with the NPIs, very low testing which limits detection; rising daily numbers occasioned by the second wave, disruption in socio-economic activities; an increasing number of deceased loved ones, friends and church members; and vaccine hesitancy across all strata.

Other challenges according to him are the dangers associated with those infected but were never detected, Guardian reported.

He said: “While we continue to push the frontiers of compliance with the NPIs through all means, including collaboration with the sub-national entities, faith-based organisations, community engagement and through legal instruments such as the recently issued Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021, the role of the church in the escalation of the awareness on COVID-19, vaccines and minimisation of resistance and hesitancy to it, can never be overemphasised.

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