By Hassan Zaggi
The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, called on the federal government to increase the sensitization about the COVID-19 vaccine in order to clear all the doubts and myths surrounding the vaccine.
The Sultan who is the President General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), gave the advice at the sensitisation programme on COVID-19 vaccine organised for muslim scholars and Imams in Nigeria by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), in Abuja, Wednesday.
He, however, cautioned that it was unreasonable to believe that the COVID-19 vaccine was meant to kill Nigerians, maintaining that there were over a million ways to kill Nigerians through imported drugs and products long before coronavirus or the vaccines ever emerged.
The Sultan reiterated the need for the federal government to answer pertinent questions around the safety of the vaccines through sensitisation in order to dispel the growing myths and misconceptions making rounds in the social media, adding that although the COVID-19 vaccine was free, getting vaccinated was a personal choice.
According to him: “We need to convince people on the need to take the COVID-19 vaccines or not. We have heard a lot of myths and misconceptions about COVID-19 and the vaccines.
“People talk of conspiracy theories that the vaccines are meant to kill us but will anyone wait to use the vaccines before they can kill us? So many drugs and products are imported into the country so if anybody wants to kill us there are one million and one ways to kill us.
“The vaccines are free but the decision to take the vaccine is a personal choice so you should know every information about the vaccine.”
Speaking, Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, stressed the importance of religious leaders in shaping the perception, attitude and acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccines by their followers.
He emphasized that there was need for a collaboration with government in sensitising the Muslim community on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.
He noted that considering the successes achieved in the eradication of Wild Polio Virus in Nigeria through the help of religious leaders, it was important to reach out to them again to seek their buy in and ensuring they understand the issues surrounding the COVID-19 vaccination to enhance better communication to their subjects.
He noted that: “We have learnt from our lessons, early on in the polio eradication programme we did not seek enough the buy in of religious leaders, we cannot make the same mistake twice and this is why even before the COVID-19 vaccines arrive Nigeria, we are engaging and sensitising our religious leaders so that when they have the buy-in, when they understand COVID-19 then they will be able to communicate it with their followers in a language only they can.
“Religious leaders are very respected in their communities and it is whatever they say that the believers and the followers take home to their families and their loved ones and so the collaboration between the NPHCDA and the Supreme Council is very crucial.
“It is important for government to talk to you Scholars and Imams because you are closer to the people and can communicate to them in the language they understand on how the vaccines works. I want to assure you that no vaccine will be brought into Nigeria except they are satified safe by NAFDAC.”