Following reported cases of vaccine hesitancy, international organisations, including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and Nigeria Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS (NINERELA+) have tasked religious leaders on convincing adherents of the Christian and Muslim faith to go for COVID-19 vaccination to combat the menace.
Speaking in Abuja during a ‘’Vaccinate Our World (VOW) workshop’’ organised for religious leaders on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and global vaccine inequity, the AHF Country Program Director, Dr Echey Ijezie, lamented that developing countries like Nigeria have been ignored, with regards to equitable vaccine distribution.
He said: “State actors over the years have played important roles, but we think that this should be pushed to the next mile and we believe that our faith leaders play important roles in the front lines. People listen to faith leaders in Africa and all over the world, especially when they lead by example. We want our faith leaders to ensure that the congregation they lead have that trust that these vaccines are available, safe and should be given.
“We need the support of all faith leaders, because they have massive followership. Let us tell our followers that vaccines are available and people should come forward and not be hesitant at all. We also need religious leaders to talk to world leaders about vaccine inequities. As of April this year, 65.1% of the entire world has received at least one doze of COVID-19 vaccine. 11.53 billion doses have been administered globally.
“However, when you bring it down to low and middle income countries, there is a drop from 65.1% to only 15% in low income countries, including Nigeria. So, there is a wide gap. There is a disparity. Only 33.3 million of Nigerians are fully vaccinated, which represents 6.5% of our population, which is less than 10%. 78% of COVID-19 doses went to high and upper middle income countries, leaving a small percentage to low income countries. There is a real gap. So, AHF is calling on the whole world, including religious leaders in Nigeria to add their voice to bridge this gap.”
An executive member of the Christian Association of Nigeria Nasarawa state chapter, Rev Bulus Dakwu who emphasized that leaders must live exemplary lives by taking the vaccines urged world leaders to assist Africa in raising hundred billion dollars to secure sufficient COVID 19 doses to vaccinate the world.
Reporting by Sarah Gimba, editing by Daniel Adejo.