Addressing Misinformation About COVID-19 Vaccination in Nigeria

Dr Faisal Shuaib
Executive Secretary NPHCDA

PROTOCOL

Good afternoon distinguished members of the press and thank you for honouring our invitation to yet another crucial moment of COVID-19 vaccination update in Nigeria.

First, I want to acknowledge the tremendous work that you members of the media have been doing to convey accurately and up to date information about Covid-19 to all Nigerians. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how we could have contained this pandemic without you by our side, supporting the PSC and shaping the narrative. We thank you.

As you may already be aware, we are witnessing an increasing wave of COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation that should leave any patriotic Nigerian wondering how long mischief-makers want the world to remain in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic itself. The creativity with which some people misinform others and spread misconceptions about COVID-19 vaccination calls for more deliberate, decisive, and consistent steps to counter as well as provide correct and accurate information that will help more people to make informed decisions to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

It is unfortunate that the right of the public to true and accurate information on matters of collective concern is being threatened by just a few others who are taking advantage of social media to mislead people about their health. Let me quickly state here that this breach of the public right to true and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccination is a challenge to the media, which should be taken seriously.

It is evident that Nigeria has made significant progress towards utilizing the 4 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine we got from the COVAX facility, and that is why our vaccine rollout has been described as the best in the African sub-region. As the country prepares to receive additional vaccine supply to commence phase 2 of its strategic vaccination plan, our attention has been drawn to, yet another level of disinformation targeted at discouraging people from seeking vaccination against COVID-19.

The anti-vaccination elements have come up with magnetic conspiracy, in which they claim, and are deceiving people with videos, that the COVID-19 vaccine creates a magnetic field around the vaccination site and can cause the body to light up an electric bulb.

As ridiculous as this and other conspiracy theories are, vulnerable people, believe them and are therefore continuing to take the risk of avoiding COVID-19 vaccination. Although the people who are manufacturing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 are in the minority, the virulence of social media increases their reach. For this reason, ladies, and gentlemen, it has become necessary for us to confront the false theorists if we really want Nigeria and the world to overcome COVID-19 and recover from its adversities.

At the onset, it was claimed that COVID-19 was introduced to justify developing vaccines that would be used to depopulate Africans. Those who came up with this theory said that anybody who takes the vaccine would die immediately. Today, as we all can see, nearly 4 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in Nigeria and we have not recorded any case of death linked to the vaccination.

On seeing this reality, the rumour mongers changed their narratives into saying that the vaccines used in Europe and America are not the same as the ones used in Africa. Again, as evidence has come to show, it is now clear that the COVID-19 vaccines used in Europe, America and elsewhere in the World are the same used in Nigeria and other countries in Africa. The conspiracy theorist went silent about this claim and are now saying that anyone who takes the vaccine will die after two years. Nigerians are predominantly a country of Muslims and Christians. We know that these religions are clear that no one knows the year of the day they will die. So why would we even pay attention to such spurious claims?

Distinguished members of the press let us not forget that this same falsehood of children dying after vaccination was spread about the Polio vaccine, but after many years, children who took the polio vaccine are still alive and have grown into adulthood and having their own children, as expected. There has not been any case of a child’s death that is linked to polio vaccination, and many more children have been born to discount another claim that polio vaccination would lead to infertility.

Today as I speak, 2,495,632 people have been vaccinated with the first dose, while 1,370,130 have received their second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria. Overall, Nigeria has successfully utilized 3.9M doses, representing 96% of the 4,024,000 doses of the vaccines received in the country. Nigeria is poised to achieve 100% utilization of the doses of vaccine it has received in the next few days. This is to ensure that people are protected against COVID-19, and normalcy is restored.

We must take informed steps to guard ourselves against being misled by those who are spreading misconceptions about COVID-19 vaccines. It is important for our media to understand that the TRUTH, which they hold so high in principle, is at war with falsehood, and therefore every effort must be made to ensure that people are vaccinated against COVID-19 if we want TRUTH to be victorious.

Today I would like to make it very clear and demonstrate publicly that the COVID-19 vaccine does not create any magnetic effect around the vaccination site or any part of the body for that matter, neither does it cause the body to light up an electric bulb. It is also a well-known fact that persons with wet, moist, or sticky skin can have objects stuck to their skin especially in smooth areas. Strong friction also allows for objects to stick to the skin. COVID -19 vaccines do not contain any metal – this is another fact! So how can it generate a magnetic field or light an electric bulb?

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I would urge everyone to please do more research on their own using credible information sources so that we do not promote ignorance in an age of civilization.

At this juncture, I would like to invite our team to publicly demonstrate the magnetic conspiracy theory is false, as the COVID-19 vaccine does not create any magnetic field on any part of the human body, neither can it cause the body to light an electric bulb.

Finally, I would like to assure Nigerians that the Presidential Steering Committee and indeed the Federal Government is committed to providing safe and effective vaccination against COVID-19 in Nigeria. Their Excellencies, President Muhammad Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and other strategic leaders, have taken their first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is the leadership by example that Nigerians want to see, and our President and his team have shown demonstrated this unequivocally. It, therefore, behoves every one of us to seek correct and accurate information about COVID-19 from credible sources so that we can make the right decision to get vaccinated against COVID-19!

Meanwhile, I urge everyone to and continue to wear their face masks, wash their hands frequently, observe social distancing and take other precautionary measures against COVID-19.

Stay safe and Thank you for listening!

Dr Faisal Shuaib

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