REV. FR. TIMOTHY ETSENAMHE
The image that resonates quickly whenever the word jab is mentioned is that of an overhead punch in a martial arts competition like Boxing. In this context, no one would be punched by Larry Holmes, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson or our very own Anthony Joshua. However for those who are conscious of the signs of our present time the impression hits differently -it is the piercing punch of the syringe vaccinating humanity against the annihilating intent of covid-19.
Although world over, it seems things are better, however it only appears to be so because attention is gradually being shifted from the virus by the removal of lockdowns and travel restrictions have in most cases about 70 percent opened. Football and other sports arenas are now opened; life is coming back to the streets and deserted neighborhoods; night life is near- fully activated; more and more travelers are trooping the various airports for international travels; there is de-emphasis in preventive precautions, and in Nigeria the thinking that Covid-19 is a scam still looms large among the populace.
In the presence of all of these realities there is a shadow of death hovering in the midst of the euphoria of the stirring freedom. In some parts of the United States of America, for example, numbers of new cases are rising on daily bases. School children are exposed to the virus because of the nonchalant attitude of some parents and guardians. Here in Nigeria, it seems as though we are safe because we have thrown covid-19 protective measures to the wind. Only recently in the hustle and bustle of life around Aduwawa and New- Benin, Benin City, a friend expressed the shocking fact that people go about recklessly as if all is well and expose themselves and others without caring about the prescribed behaviours of the time.
The virus is real! Every day our kith and kin contact this virus; everyday folks die from this virus. Only recently it was reported that Ona Ekhomu, the leader of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, AISSON, a man who has in his fingertips the architecture of the solutions to the insecurity that Nigeria is bedeviled with at present, died of Covid-19. In our various localities people are hospitalized and scores of death occur without hitting the records of NCDC.It is a truism that there is a somewhat subtle surge in the number of new cases in some states in Nigeria. Yet majority of Nigerians are inundated with the disbelief in the existence of thevirus. ‘’The virus has come to stay’’, the Federal Government of Nigeria admonished, and it is what it is. The virus has a generative propensity.
The ability of the virus to mutate, makes it difficult to be totally and easily eradicated. Any change in the virus might bring about a stronger one. Thus far there have been about four dominant variants of SARS-Cov-2 – the Alpha variant, also known as the UK variant and officially referred to as B.1.1.7; the Beta variant, in other words called the South Africa Variant, B.1.351; the Gamma variant, formally called the Brazil variant and officially known as P.1.; and the Delta variant called the India variant and officially referred to as B.1.617.2. This latter oneis deadliest and it is responsible for the over 99 percent of the cases in the US and elsewhere the virus is having a sway. In fact the fear ofthe Delta variant is the beginning of wisdom.
It is a highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus strain, which was first identified in India in December 2020. This strain was responsible for the so many hospitalization and deaths in India. The country became a shadow of itself owing to the number of deaths from Covid to the extent hospitals ran out of spaces to admit patients; it was also difficult getting burial grounds for corpses. It was a national scourge. It swept through India to Britain and then to the US. This strain is now the predominant variant in the United States of America and it is raving some states in God’s own country quietly. The Delta variant no doubt has altered the progress in flattening the curve by shooting up new Cases around the globe.
According to scientists, this particular strain is more than twice as contagious as the previous ones, and according to the US Centre for Disease control and prevention, it is more likely to put people into hospitalization than the original ones. The degree of its spread is awfully amazing. Hence F. Perry Wilson asserts, ‘’One thing that is unique about Delta is how quickly it has spread.’’ And according to CDC, Delta is the cause of more than 99 percent of new US Covid-19 cases.
Alpha was considered the fastest spreading mutant until delta, which now has a record of about 50% more contagious than the original strain of SARS-coV-2. Some data from CDC suggest that the Delta variant might cause more severe illness than previous variants in unvaccinated people. According to this source in two different studies from Canada and Scotland, patients infected with Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalized than patients infected with Alpha or the original virus that causes Covid-19. Furthermore, the source opines that the vast majority of hospitalization and death caused by Covid-19 are in unvaccinated people.
Therefore the need for vaccination cannot be over emphasized. It is painful to see a huge vaccine skepticism growing among ranks and files, across the world and especially in Nigeria. There is apathy towards the acceptance of vaccines. There are many conspiracy theories flying on the social media space that people just believe hook, line, and sinker. There is little or no emphasis from religious leaders encouraging their followers, Ummah, and parishioners on the need to vaccinate. In most cases some of these leaders secretly vaccinate themselves and families and then come to the pulpit to play the superman and ‘miracle’ game before their congregants. The truth is that this virus has come to stay like chickenpox, polio, hepatitis and others.
The vaccines are somewhat antidotes. Vaccination is the best way to protect humans from potentially harmful diseases that could impact very serious arm and require hospitalization, or even resulting to death. The various approved vaccines against Covid-19 are all scientifically certified good and fit for use. They prevent the spread of the disease, reduce hospitalization by reducing the effect of the virus on its host, and prevent death. The vaccines are not curative but can stop the widespread of the virus, reduce the risk of death and severe sickness. So much that when one is vaccinated and contacts the virus, it would have no serious effect and also unable to spread it as against when unvaccinated. Taking the jab is a very important step in restoring our public health the world over.
However there is so much doubt about the authenticity of the vaccines by so many people. This has led to some people rejecting the call to vaccinate. Many people in Africa reject the vaccine because they feel the western world with its superiority complex is using Africa as a testing ground. I do not think this is correct. The world Health Organization has said Oxford AstraZeneca in the west is the same in Africa and everywhere; Johnson & Johnson anywhere is the same everywhere. For us in Nigeria NCDC and NAFDAC are staffed by qualified scientists, pharmacists and virologists. They cannot allow Nigerians to be poisoned and killed by conniving with western bodies in this age and time.
On the other spectrum, some reject covid-19 vaccination because of ethical issues, stating that cells from fetal abortions are used in the elementary stages of the composition of the vaccines. Some scientists, in order to clear this confusion explained that fetal cell lines, which no doubt are used in the production of the vaccines, grow in the laboratories and they are not fetal tissues. They come from cells taken from elective abortions in the 1970s and 1980s. They have multiplied into many new cells over a period of time and they do not contain any tissue from the fetus. Therefore there is no direct involvement of those who use the vaccine in abortion which is anti- life and the right to life. Perhaps the aim of every vaccine is principally to save life, one may submit.
Main while, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, advocates that people get jabbed. For him it is a moral obligation. He asserted in an interview for Italy’s TG5 News Program, ‘’I believe that morally everyone must take the vaccine.’’ He continues, ‘’ it is the moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others.’’ He further showed surprise on the fact that people are ignoring vaccination, an attitude he called ‘’a suicidal denialism.’’ Earlier in the month of August the Pontiff through a video produced in conjunction with the Ad Council encouraged all peoples and Catholics to accept been inoculated. According to him, getting vaccinated with the approved vaccines is ‘’an act of love.’’ In the video, the pope thanked God and those He used to bring about the various vaccines. He said inter alia, ‘’ thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from Covid-19. Vaccines bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and we collaborate with one another.’’
The availability of the vaccines for all, collaboration in terms of helping one another, encouraging one another in taking the certified vaccines, is what the Supreme Pontiff refers to as ‘’act of love’’. Only recently a friend of mine inquired if I have had my jab. We both talked about the need and importance of the vaccines in present reality. This is all we need to do. There is too much of incorrect postulations going on that would make people not give in to the idea of vaccination. At the moment, to vaccinate appears to be one of the surest ways of drastically reducing the potency of the virus and it incessant spread. In the US for example there is spike in numbers of infected people in areas where vaccination level is low. CNN reported recently the virus spikes in Missouri’s Ozarks basically because the rate of vaccination remains slow.
Ozarks is the third largest city in Missouri. About 44% of the 167 patients of Covid-19 are in critical care or are receiving treatment in the ICU. This is occasioned by the Delta variant and the reluctant attitude of people to receiving the vaccine. In Missouri it is said that about 56% of adults in the state have only taken at least one dose of the vaccine which is well below the national rate with about 12%. The number of hospitalization is fast increasing. Steve Hoeger of the MARC Health Care Coalition asserts, ‘’should we start to see a high number of COVID patients like they are there, we are going to be very challenged with how many beds that we have available.’’ Without vaccine there would be more hospitalization and death just like in 2020. People should jettison vaccine skepticism and hesitancy if they need to live freely again.
The approved vaccines, BioNtech Pfizer, Johnson &Johnson, Moderna, Oxford AstraZeneca, and Sputnik V are all safe. The level of antibodies of the various vaccines may be different but they are all scientifically proven to be safe. Like some routine drugs administered, the vaccines may cause some reactions for some people and others may not have reactions. Our bodies are biologically configured differently. I know those who have had their complete jab who did not feel anything while some others had fever and some strange symptoms. For example, some people react to drugs with sulfur while others do not. Perhaps many people had vaccines in the past as little children and would not know what the aftermath result of such jabs were. The world is too civilized today to brandish a killing vaccine for humanity. The world health organization is guided by ethics and it is internationally staffed. The possibility of carrying out a certain peoples’ agenda would be near impossible. We should be charitable and approach centres of vaccinations to get inoculated. No doubt the vaccines bring hope to our darkened world again. According to President Joe Biden, we must ensure we take our ‘’dose of hope.”
The World Health Organization encourages people to take the vaccines and also adhere seriously to Covid-19 precautions like wearing of face mask, washing of hands, maintaining social distancing, avoiding crowd, getting enough ventilation in enclosed environments and spaces. In many public gatherings in Nigeria especially in rural areas people no longer care about face mask and all other precautions. When you do, you are seen as ‘’over sabi’’and for those who cannot stand this taunt they join the band wagon of those who have thrown caution to the wind. It is not uhuru yet. People die of covid-19every day, some get infected without knowing because there are not enough testing facilities and people are not willing to go for test even when they notice some symptoms of Covid-19. There is need for enlightenment. Stakeholders like Religious leaders, community leaders and political leaders must emphasize on the need to get vaccinated.
The Edo State government is showing good example by ensuring compliance by making vaccination compulsory for every Civil Servant to the extent of preventing them from gaining access to their offices if they cannot provide proof of vaccination. Every public worker should be responsible enough to get vaccinated. The choice to vaccinate is for the good of oneself and others. Those who provide services for the people both public and private should ensure they get their jabs. Companies and institutions should make vaccination compulsory; they could even provide incentive for vaccination. This will encourage their staff to embrace the programme of vaccination.
Consequently, medical personnel who are in charge of administering the vaccine should be patient to educate people. Their words should be soothing and be able to enliven those who want to know more about the vaccine before getting it; they should be able to convince the masses on the need to be vaccinated. It is not just enough to advocate for mass vaccination, government should ensure the availability of the best brand of vaccines. They should ensure that there is no bureaucracy in the administration of vaccines. Centres for inoculations should not be restricted to hospitals and health centres alone. They should be brought closer to the people- in churches and mosques, schools and market places, town halls and village squares. If all these are done we would get almost every Nigerian to staying jabbed.