The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the rapid spread of the sudden acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has led to widespread mortalities, mass hospitalizations and lockdowns across the world. It has also resulted in unprecedented economic disruptions with the attendant loss of jobs and livelihoods.
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as at 3rd March 2021, Nigeria has recorded 156,496 confirmed cases and 1,923 deaths since its index case was first reported on 27th February 2020.
There is now hope of an end to the acute phase of the pandemic and the gradual return to normal life with the global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines that have been proven to minimize severe illnesses or deaths from the disease.
The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) has taken delivery of the first consignment of 3.9 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine and the national target is to vaccinate 70% of eligible adult Nigerians within a period of two years.
However, vaccine hesitancy, that is, the reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated, may yet derail the achievement of this national target. Nigeria's recent history with refusal of the oral polio vaccine easily comes to mind as it led to polio cases rising locally and the spread of the disease to other countries.
As articulated by the World Health Organization (WHO), none of us will be safe until everyone is safe. Consequently, it is an urgent priority to improve public awareness of the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for use in Nigeria in order to drive uptake. This is not just a task for government at all levels in terms of carrying out mass campaigns across traditional and social media but individuals should also lead by their own actions.