Some residents of Lagos State have complained about the frustration they are experiencing while trying to access the COVID-19 vaccine.
They allege it is a ploy by the state government to make them pay N6,000 to be inoculated at private hospitals.
The residents spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Lagos.
They said that getting inoculation at some centres had been difficult, in spite of their preregistration.
NAN reports that Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu had on Oct. 27 approved N6,000 for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines at private health facilities in the state.
Sanwo-Olu said the move was part of the state’s strategy to conduct mass vaccination of four million residents by Dec. 25.
The governor said that vaccination exercise in the state would be administered by the approved 400 private health facilities, alongside the 183 public health centres.
NAN checks at some public vaccination sites at Alimosho, Ikorodu and Kosofe, showed large turnout of people awaiting vaccination, with some of the centres rowdy.
Mrs Olubunmi Adeyanju, a trader, said that her efforts to get vaccinated at Agbelekale Primary Health Centre (PHC), Alimosho, on Oct. 28 was futile.
“I got to the vaccination site early because I was scheduled for the morning session, till I left in the evening, I couldn’t get the vaccine.
“We were told that vaccines were not available. I went back the next day and the day after, it was the same experience.
“I even visited two other COVID-19 vaccination sites at Alimosho, the situation was similar to the centre I registered at.
“Some people I met there suggested that we should go to the private hospital to get the vaccine, but how do I raise the administrative fee from the little profit I make from my petty trade.
“I appeal to the government to make more vaccines available and the process seamless at PHCs to encourage more people to take the COVID-19 vaccine,” she said.
Also, Mr Augustine Ezekiel, a civil servant, said that the large turnout of people at Ikorodu PHC, Ita-Elewa, discouraged him from taking the vaccine.
He appealed to the state government to increase the number of public vaccination sites, noting that doing that would ease the vaccination process.
A retiree, Alhaja Sekinat Anifowoshe, complained that non-availability or late arrival of vaccines at some centres was responsible for overcrowding and vaccine hesitancy in some areas.
“Those in charge should make the process seamless because many of us, notwithstanding the frustration experienced, cannot afford to pay N6,000 for vaccine administration.
“Government should ensure that there is no hoarding of vaccine at the public health sites, we all need protection against the virus,” she said.
Reacting, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, Chairman, Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19, decried the situation, noting that some unscrupulous people were trying to frustrate the government’s effort as vaccines were available in the state.
Tomori, who is a virologist, said there was a need for proper monitoring and unannounced visits to public vaccination sites by top government officials to observe happenings there.
“This kind of visit shouldn’t involve the use of sirens or entourage but going incognito and pretending to be a vaccinee.
“It will give them the opportunity to observe happenings in some of the centres and know the steps to take to address them,” he said.
On the introduction of N6,000 administrative fees for COVID-19 vaccines at private hospitals, Tomori said peculiarity of the country’s situation necessitated such a move.
The virologist noted that “since most ‘big men’ won’t be willing to go to PHCs to queue and access the vaccine, then they can pay the service charge for accessing it at private hospitals of their choice.
“It’s the state of the country, if we have equitable health delivery service, there will be no need for that.
“During the polio vaccination campaign, some African countries provided the private hospitals with vaccine, they were given a limit on what to charge for services and not for vaccines,” he said.
According to him, there is need to clear misconceptions that the state is charging for COVID-19 vaccine, saying the fee is the service charge for getting inoculated at private hospitals.
Also, Dr Tunji Akintade, former Chairman, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, said that to ensure uniformity in service charge, the government fixed the cost and payment would also be made to the government.
Akintade said that it was better to partner with the private hospitals to reach more people than to allow the vaccine to expire due to its short shelf life.
Commenting, Dr Makinde Akinlemibola, Lagos Chairman, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, said training was ongoing for personnel of the 400 hospitals that would be involved in the vaccination campaign.
Akinlemibola noted that PHCs were many in the state, however, not as widespread as private hospitals that provide over 50 per cent health service delivery to the populace.
He said that the association’s partnership with the state government would assist the state to quickly achieve its target of herd immunity. (NAN)