Adelani Adepegba and Deborah Tolu-Kolawole

The Federal Government on Thursday defended its decision to bar civil servants without proof of COVID-19 vaccination from their offices starting from December 1.

The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr  Faisal Shuaib,  at a media briefing in Abuja,  said the Federal Government  had enough COVID-19  vaccines for  its employees.

But the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria said although it was not opposed to the directive, it said the deadline was too short, adding that it would create tension among workers.

The PUNCH on Thursday reported that the Boss Mustapha-led Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 had announced that Federal Government workers without proof of COVID-19 vaccination or test results done within 72 hours would be denied access to their offices starting from December 1.

Mustapha,  at the committee briefing in Abuja on Wednesday said the directive would be applicable in all locations in Nigeria and missions, adding that a circular would be issued to that effect.

But on Thursday, Shuaib said, “On the question of availability of vaccines, we have already done a comprehensive analysis and forecast of COVID-19 vaccines. We have enough vaccines to cover more than the population of Federal Government employees and we are expecting even  more.

“Based on delivery forecasts from the COVAX facility and the African Union, Nigeria will have adequate vaccines to cover more that 50 per cent of eligible populations by the end of the first quarter of 2022. In order words, please do not worry about the availability of vaccines. We have the supply chain figured out.”

The NPHCDA boss also added that the government would work with relevant security agencies to sanction those who  engaged in sale and buying of vaccination cards.

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 Shuaib said  the government had also begun plans for the establishment of mass vaccination sites across strategic centres in the country.

He said, “In line with the NPHCDA commitment to ramp up COVID-19 vaccine uptake, the agency has put in place plans for the establishment of mass vaccination sites across the country.

“The objective of this strategy is to vaccinate a high volume of individuals through large sites such as federal institutions (universities, polytechnics), shopping malls, religious centres, sporting events, conference centres and markets

“This will require strong collaboration between NPHCDA, state governments, religious bodies, school authorities and governing bodies of malls and large sporting events. As we expand the vaccination sites, we encourage all eligible Nigerians to avail themselves of the opportunities.”

Shuaib added that the government had also begun the decentralisation of vaccination in a bid to include private health care providers.

He stated, “I am also glad to inform you that we have commenced the process of decentralising COVID-19 vaccination in Nigeria to include private health care providers. This is to expand access and increase utilisation of the vaccines.

“The decentralisation will not affect the Federal Government’s free vaccination policy. COVID-19 vaccines will be administered free of charge at both government and private health facilities and the vaccination cards should be given free of charge after vaccination. We acknowledge the fact that private health facilities may need to charge for their hospital registration cards which is different from the COVID-19 vaccination cards.”

Compulsory vaccination: Be flexible, don’t create unnecessary tension, ASCSN tells FG

But the ASCSN  said the November 30 deadline for compulsory COVID-19 vaccination by federal workers was not feasible.

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The union, while endorsing the  vaccination mandate for federal workers, however, observed that the directive to deny workers without proof of vaccination access to their offices from December 1 might create unnecessary tension.

The ASCSN Secretary-General, Mr Alade Lawal, in an interview with The PUNCH, argued that the government should be flexible with the deadline in view of the inadequate vaccines doses in the country and the challenges faced by workers in locating vaccination centres.

He stated, “It would be better if the government can be a little bit flexible because some of these workers have to travel for some kilometres before they can reach where they would be vaccinated. But minus that, it (directive) is a good thing. It is for the safety of workers in the workplace. Once you are vaccinated, the risk of contracting the virus is lower.

“We are encouraging our workers to get vaccinated, we are also appealing to the government to be flexible with the date. That November date may not be feasible so that in the final analysis, you don’t create unnecessary tension while trying to solve one or two problems.”

He encouraged Nigerians who had yet to take the vaccines to continue observing social distancing and other protocols for their safety.

According to him, the government should have issued the directive earlier, adding that other countries which enforced the vaccine mandate had recorded great progress in vaccinating their citizens.

Speaking in the same vein, the President, Nigeria Civil Service Union, Mr Lawrence Amaechi, endorsed the government directive, adding that his union was in support of any effort that could ensure mass vaccination.

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He explained that most individuals were scared of taking the jabs due to the false information being peddled on social media.

He stated, “I will not oppose it because the only way to eradicate this deadly disease is to get vaccinated. Some people are adamant, they are scared based  on what they read on social media.”

A civil society organisation, Advocate for Peoples Rights and Justice, on its part, kicked against the directive by the Federal Government.

The National Coordinator of the APRJ, Victor Giwa, stated this in a letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, dated October 14, 2021.         ,,

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