Nigeria: Ten things you should know about the Covid-19 vaccine

Ifeanyi M. Nsofor
By Ifeanyi M. Nsofor

Dr Ifeanyi M. Nsofor is the Senior Vice President for Africa at Human Health Education and Research Foundation. He is a Senior New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute, a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at George Washington University and an Innovation Fellow at PandemicTech You can follow him on Twitter @ekemma.

Posted on Friday, 17 December 2021 19:07, updated on Wednesday, 5 January 2022 16:00

Virus Outbreak Nigeria Africa Vaccines
A nurse prepare one of the country's first coronavirus vaccinations, using the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative, at Yaba Mainland hospital in Lagos, Nigeria Friday, March 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

It's been nearly two years since Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic. In late 2020, the first vaccine was approved for use.

I am excited to be fully vaccinated and have received my booster dose too. It is important for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible in order for us to have a chance of ending this ongoing crisis. Here are ten things you should know as you prepare to get vaccinated.

All Covid-19 vaccines approved by the WHO are safe

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has eight Covid-19 vaccines globally. Four of them are currently in use in Nigeria. These are Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech. Below is the schedule for each of the vaccines:

  • Oxford-AstraZeneca: Two doses. Second dose: four to eight weeks after the first dose.
  • Moderna: Two doses. Second dose: four weeks after the first dose.
  • Johnson & Johnson: Only one dose.
  • Pfizer-BioNTech: Two doses. Second dose: three weeks after the first dose.

Afterwards, there is one booster dose of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

Covid-19 vaccines reduce the risk of infection, severe illness and the need for hospitalisation

The vaccines significantly reduce your risk of being infected with Covid-19. In the event that you have a breakthrough infection, you are unlikely to have severe illness and are likely to have a decreased need for hospitalisation. Data shows that unvaccinated people have five times the risk of infection and more than ten times the risk of hospitalisation or death compared with vaccinated people.

Covid-19 vaccines are free in government health facilities

The government of Nigeria has received these four Covid-19 vaccines for free. Therefore, you do not have to pay to be vaccinated in government health facilities. However, in some states like Lagos, the state government has approved some private health facilities as Covid-19 vaccination centres. This gives you more choices of where to go to get vaccinated. Please note that these private health facilities in Lagos charge a fee of N6,000 ($14.6) for a complete dose of any of the four vaccines.

Use credible organisations as your sources of Covid-19 information

Beware of what the WHO refers to as an ‘infodemic’ – Covid-19 misinformation, disinformation and fake news spread across social media and other parts of the internet. Always defer to reputable sources for information such as the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Federal Ministry of Health, State Ministries of Health, WHO, Nigeria Health Watch, Wellbeing Foundation Africa and others. The kinds of information we consume are very important. We have to guard our minds so that we can make the right decisions.

Side effects of Covif-19 vaccines are mild

One of the largest studies of side effects of Covid-19 vaccines, the ZOE COVID Study, lists side effects as being mild, such as a headache, fatigue, chills or shivers, pain and swelling at the injection site. Personally, I felt a bit drowsy hours after I took my first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Consequently, I slept deeply that night. By the following morning, I woke up strong and ready to carry on with my day’s activities. I did not have side effects after I took my second dose, eight weeks later. So, please don’t worry about the side effects. They are mild and usually over within days.

Long Covid is worse than vaccine side effects

If you do not get vaccinated and contract Covid-19, you have a chance of contracting long Covid. This describes a group of symptoms that some people have for up to a year or longer.

It does not matter whether the Covid-19 infection is asymptomatic, mild or severe, one can have long Covid. Examples of long Covid symptoms include tiredness, difficulty in remembering past events (foggy brain), inflammation of the heart and lots more.

Long Covid is so severe that some countries such as the US and the UK have classified some of them as disabilities. Testimonies from “Voices of long Covid by Resolve to Save Lives” are not pleasant.

For instance, 20-year-old Katelyn said: “I can no longer remember somethings that happened even way before I got Covid … I am telling my long Covid story so that you won’t have one to tell.”

In contrast, Covid-19 vaccines significantly reduce your risk of getting infected and prevent you from having long Covid. Let’s join hands to ensure Nigerians do not suffer long Covid by getting vaccinated.

Covid-19 vaccines are for the public good

Long before the coronavirus pandemic, the WHO identified vaccinations as one of the most cost-effective public health interventions. Vaccines are for the public good and have long prevented infections, suffering and deaths.

One important aspect of vaccination is attaining “herd immunity”. The WHO defines herd immunity as: “indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.”

Previous Covid-19 infection would not help us achieve immunity quickly. However, the vaccine would. It is estimated that a population needs to achieve 80-90% of Covid-19 vaccine coverage to achieve herd immunity. Sadly, Nigeria has just achieved less than 5% Covid-19 vaccination coverage. Let’s all get vaccinated. It is for the public good. We would protect ourselves, families, friends and colleagues from Covid-19.

Covid-19 vaccines make economic sense

One cannot forget how city lockdowns earlier in the pandemic negatively affected the Nigerian economy and businesses.

Although there are no lockdowns now, our economy has still not recovered, inflation is on the rise and many families find it difficult to take care of themselves. More than 60% of the Nigerian economy is in the informal sector. For our economy to reopen fully and businesses to recover, we have to achieve a high vaccination coverage. We have to achieve herd immunity. United, we would help the Nigerian economy to recover and business to thrive.

Covid-19 vaccination is a sure way to end this pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has dragged on for almost two years. Everyone is tired and our mental health has taken a hit. Sometimes, it seems like there is no end in sight, but there can be. Covid-19 vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel; they are the sure way to end this pandemic and for us to begin to live our lives as we did pre the pandemic.

Contact NPHCDA or your State Ministry of Health for Covid-19 vaccination sites in your state

If you have questions or concerns about the vaccine, contact NPHCDA’s Covid-19 call centre on +234 700 220 1122 or visit www.nphcda.gov.ng/ 

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