The Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, has said Federal Government workers without proof of COVID-19 vaccination or test results done within 72 hours will be denied access to their offices starting from December 1.
Mustapha, who spoke at the committee briefing on Wednesday in Abuja, said the directive would be applicable in all locations in Nigeria and missions, adding that a circular would be issued to that effect.
The Nigerian Medical Association and virologists, in separate interviews with The PUNCH supported government order.
Experts, including a medical virologist at Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Dr. Oladipo Kolawole, said the decision would make more people to be vaccinated.
He, however, said the government should give people more time.
On his part, the NMA President, Professor Innocent Uja, said the directive would prevent the spread of the virus in the country.
But a spokesman for the Joint Health Sector Unions, Mr. Olumide Akintayo, faulted the Federal Government on the grounds that the vaccines were inadequate in the country.
The Federal Government had on August 31 hinted that it might sanction anybody who refused to take COVID-19 vaccines after they had been made available to all Nigerians.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, who gave the hint of possible sanctions, said those who refused to take the vaccines would be endangering others.
Also on September 3, Mustapha during a meeting with the commissioners for health in Abuja said the vaccines would be made compulsory for civil servants.
He said other countries were making the vaccine certificate a requirement for international travel.
Mustapha stated that vaccination was made compulsory for civil servants because they would be travelling to perform roles on behalf of the Federal Government.
On Wednesday, the Federal Government went a step further to implement its directive on compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for civil servants.
The SGF disclosed that as from December 1, civil servants without proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results would not be allowed to enter their offices.
He said, “With effect from 1st December 2021, Federal Government employees shall be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result done within 72 hours, to gain access to their offices, in all locations within Nigeria and our missions. An appropriate service wide advisory, circular will be issued to guide the process. “
He added that over the last four weeks, tests have shown that the trend of infection was going down in some states while in others it had gone upward, noting that a combined total for testing by PCR and RDT now stands at about 3.141,795 million persons.
Mustapha also disclosed that talks were going on with the United Arab Emirates to resolve the impasse.
Govt lifts ban on South Africa, Turkey, Brazil
He also announced that South Africa, Turkey and Brazil were removed from the restricted list, saying that they were removed after a review was done.
He stated, “Over several months, four countries were placed on high-level restrictions for travelers from such countries. The PSC has, after a review of the developments in these countries, decided to remove South Africa, Turkey, and Brazil from the restricted list.”
Mustapha said the country welcomed the United Kingdom’s decision to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated travellers from Nigeria which took effect from October 11.
He added that a revised protocol would be issued in the next 24 hours.
The PSC chairman also urged the state governments and all Nigerians to increase their vigilance during the yuletide period, adding that the committee had prepared to escalate surveillance and other control activities.
Nothing wrong with the directive, it’s good we protect ourselves – NMA president
Commenting on the government’s order, the President of the NMA, Uja, said that the directive by the chairman of the presidential steering committee on COVID 19 was a good step to prevent the disease.
He noted that the directive was tantamount to responding to national needs and care.
Uja said that there was the need for Nigerians to protect themselves, adding that the directive had shown that the disease was a reality and very much with Nigerians.
He said, “There is nothing wrong with the directive, it is good that we protect ourselves. I don’t think he (Boss Mustapha) means badly for Nigerians.
“That is one way to accepting the reality that COVID 19 is very much with us and if we don’t have the luxury of equipment and facilities to treat cases, so the best thing we as doctors will request is for people to follow the protocols of prevention because, as doctors, we have lost members and is really painful thing.
“So in my opinion, if there is anything we can do to prevent this disease we should do it. I don’t think he (Boss Mustapha) is coercing us but just responding to national needs and care”.
Available doses not sufficient, barring workers insensitive – JOHESU
But the JOHESU spokesman, Akintayo, in an interview with The PUNCH, faulted the decision, saying people’s rights must be respected.
Akintayo said the doses of the vaccine available in the country were not enough. He, therefore, wondered why the government was making the vaccination compulsory.
He stated, “Nigeria claims to have a population of almost 200 million people. To the best of my knowledge, the government has not made 10 million doses available as of today. How then is it even possible to compel people to go for compulsory vaccination when the government has yet to make available the requisite doses Nigerians will take?
“If you have not made provisions, you can’t go ahead and begin to compel people to be vaccinated compulsorily. It doesn’t show too much responsibility and sensitivity on the part of the government. Whoever is coming up with this kind of policy must have a rethink. By the time you compel a group of people or all Nigerians to be vaccinated, where are you going to get all the doses needed to satisfy the compelling needs.”
A medical virologist at Adeleke University, Kolawole, supported the Federal Government.
He stated, “I think the Federal Government is just trying to encourage people to get vaccinated. I don’t know the quantity of the vaccine that is left. Maybe there is a signal that people are not taking the vaccine and they are looking at a way of making it possible to get the vaccine.”
Kolawole said more variants of the virus would emerge if people were not vaccinated.
He stated, “Although individuals are free to make their choices, the government has the right to tell individuals the direction which they are going. Before the emergence of COVID-19, there are some countries that require a yellow card before allowing people to enter.
“Had it been there are enough doses of vaccine, it would have been the best thing for the government to do at this time. The government needs to give people more time to get vaccinated.”
A medical virologist at the University of Maiduguri, Prof Marycelin Baba, commended the Federal Government for considering the options of making vaccination compulsory for civil servants.
Baba who spoke in an interview with The PUNCH described the development as a welcome one.
She said, “For the first time, the Federal Government is right. This is a welcome development. Starting with the civil servants is commendable. From there let them move to private organizations.
“People who are refusing to take the vaccine are doing that based on propaganda. There is no justification as regards that.
“This is a pandemic and it is not just any type of outbreak. It is not just about one person, but the whole world. Some individuals cannot endanger our lives. Nigerians only understand the language of enforcement. So to me, this is a welcome development.
“If the government does this and for the first time, I am proud to say this is a welcome idea.”
The Edo State Government had last month made the vaccination compulsory in the state. It also said it would not allow unvaccinated people access to government facilities.
Meanwhile, reports from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control also reveal that no fewer than 208,153 Nigerians have tested positive for the virus. While 195,936 people were discharged, 2,756 have lost their lives.
The PUNCH reports that as of October 12, 2021, a total of 5,209,170 out of the total eligible persons targeted for Covid-19 vaccination have been vaccinated with the first dose with 2,499,884 have been vaccinated with the second dose which signifies 2.2 percent of the total vaccination.
Experts continue to advocate for an increase in the vaccination rate which will enable the country to achieve its aim of vaccinating 70 percent of the population by 2022.