President of the Nigeria Supreme Council On Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, has stressed the need for more political leaders in the country to come out openly to take the anti-COVID-19 vaccine to boost the confidence of ordinary Nigerians to accept and take the vaccine.

Speaking at the sensitisation meeting for Muslim Scholars and Imams on the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination, organised by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), yesterday in Abuja, the Sultan insisted that all political office holders must take the vaccine first before the common man on the street because they are leaders and need to be strong to lead the country to a greater height.

He said: “We have seen Mr. President, the Vice President, and others publicly take the vaccine, we expect that more political leaders should come out openly and take the vaccine.

“I believe that if they do so, ordinary Nigerians will have confidence in the safety of the vaccine. All political leaders must take the vaccine first before the common man on the street because they are leaders and need to be strong to lead the country to a greater height.

He said though so many people do not believe that there is COVID-19, the pandemic is real and the danger is potent, adding: “There must be an understanding and consultation for any action to be taken to make a positive impact.”

The Islamic leader noted that there is still more confusion about the vaccines and the various conspiracy theories about them that even some advanced countries suspended the use of a certain vaccine, even as vaccination has been rolled out in some states, just as some states don’t even believe there is COVID-19.

The Sultan said even at that, the pandemic is real and the danger is potent and enjoined Muslim leaders to use the opportunity to ask questions and get the right answers that they would relay to their people.

“It is left for you, if you want to take the vaccine, we only advise you and appeal to you, like we did during the polio immunisation decades ago and today, we are polio-free.

“You play a critical role as leaders and people listen and believe in you, so be open.”

Also speaking, Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said: “Today, we are coming out from an unnecessary controversy trailing the introduction of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine globally, so we have now seen the responses to the complications coming out from Europe concerning the link between AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clotting.

“The good news is that yesterday, the umbrella body responsible for regulating medicine in Europe, the European Medicine Agency (EMA) released the outcome of their investigation and declared that it is safe and there is no relationship between the vaccine and blood clotting. That is a very massive and welcome development.”

Speaking on concerns about the safety of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said: “As far as government is concerned, AstraZeneca vaccine is the best so far, it is what we are using and it is working for us.

“The vaccine is being used in over 70 countries in six continents of the world and there is no side effect. About 17 million doses of the vaccine have been administered globally and 37 cases of blood clotting have been reported, which is very insignificant.

“There is a lot of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines, but I want to assure you, as has been confirmed by the EMA and NAFDAC, that the vaccine is safe. Most of our leaders have taken the vaccine, like the President, Vice president, Senate President, SGF, Senate President, and Speaker of the House of Representatives to confirm that it is safe.

“Our religious and traditional leaders have also endorsed this vaccine, there are also embassies and ambassadors that have come to us to ask for this vaccine because they cannot go back home to take it.

“This vaccine has virtually passed all the quality tests by the WHO and NAFDAC, who have given it a clean bill of health.”

The minister said though NPHCDA and state governments have put in place security measures to secure the vaccine, Nigerians should be vigilant about its use and safekeeping and report any negative activities to the Police or the Federal Ministry of Health.

Also speaking, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, told the Islamic leaders that the NPHCDA, as the Federal Government agency responsible for all vaccine-related matters, has brought together a highly professional and dedicated multi-sectoral team to drive the process of safe and efficacious vaccinations across the country.

The SGF stated that government needs the support of Imams and Islamic scholars at this critical moment to contain the pandemic through vaccination, which is a fundamental part of the containment and national Response plan.

He said: “As leaders of the Islamic faith and custodians of the people’s religious values, you have a great role to play in guiding our people aright. The PTF relies on science, data and experience shared around the world to make decisions for Nigerians.

“Just yesterday (Thursday, March 18), the European drug regulator said AstraZeneca’s vaccine is safe and effective. This was after a lot of misinformation about the vaccine on various mass media channels.

“We want to leverage on your divine influence to instill in our people, the sense of responsibility for themselves and their loved ones to wear facemasks, observe hand hygiene, physical distancing and ensure protocols are strictly followed during Islamic religious gatherings and avoiding travels unless absolutely necessary.

“Another and more lasting layer of prevention is the COVID-19 vaccination rollout to enable us to achieve herd immunity so that we can have our lives back to normal.”

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