Nigeria moves to criminalise COVID-19 vaccination card buyers

Gloria Essien, Abuja

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With the increase in COVID-19 vaccination mandates globally, it has come to the notice of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the Federal Ministry of Health, that attempts are being made by unscrupulous persons to procure the COVID-19 vaccination cards, without receiving the COVID-19 vaccines.

READ ALSO: Group seeks probe into alleged sale of COVID-19 vaccination cards

The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this, noting that the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination and the vaccination cards are totally free of charge at all designated COVID-19 vaccination sites across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT.

The parties involved will be prosecuted.

Possession of vaccination cards without receiving the vaccines is criminal and punishable by law,” he said.

NPHCDA and the Presidential Steering Committee strongly condemns these fraudulent attempts and is urging those attempting such acts to desist henceforth.

He noted that the NPHCDA is collaborating with the State Security Services (SSS), ICPC and other law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute any persons and their accomplices attempting to fraudulently acquire COVID-19 vaccination cards without getting vaccinated.

Nigeria has so far vaccinated a total of 4,487,367 eligible persons with their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Shuaib, gave the figure at the weekly Press Briefing on Covid-19 Vaccination roll out in Nigeria.

He said that the figure is made of 2,863,422 persons who have taken the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine and 1,623,945 persons who have taken the first dose of Moderna vaccine.

So far, 1,783,676 eligible persons have been fully vaccinated, of which 1,781,840 is with the AstraZeneca vaccine, while 1,836 persons have had the Moderna vaccine“. Dr Shuaib said.

On the recent travel advisory issued by the UK government, the Executive Director said that Nigeria is not affected by it.

As you may be aware, the UK Government released a new travel advisory which would take effect from Monday October 4th, 2021. There have been concerns by Nigerians on how this would affect us. We would like to clarify that the guidance provided by the UK Government is that they would want to simplify the classification of countries from green, amber and red to just red and green list. Therefore, countries that are currently on the amber list may fall into either of these two categories.

We have had preliminary discussions with officials of the UK Government. Without prejudice to the information yet to be released, we have been assured that Nigeria will maintain the status quo. That is to say Nigeria will not be on the red list”. He said.

He noted that the UK Government has also stated that they have no issues with the vaccines used in Nigeria.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, also known as COVISHIELD that is used in Nigeria was approved by the UK regulatory body (MHRA), other stringent regulatory authorities and the World Health Organization. So, the UK Government does recognize the vaccines used in Nigeria. The UK is doing a phased approach to deal with the high demand and volume of people arriving in their Country”. Dr. Shuaib said.

He said that it was important to stress that the phased approach is still under review by their Government and they would be providing updates regularly.

For Nigeria at the moment, there is no change in the guidelines for entry of Nigerians into the UK. A UK citizen on entry into Nigeria regardless of the vaccination status, is made to do a PCR test and isolated for 7 days and the same applies for Nigerians entering the UK, you are also required to do PCR test and isolate for a few days. This is called the principle of reciprocity in diplomatic circles“. He said.

The WHO Country Rep, Dr Walter Mulombo, said that though people who are vaccinated can still be affected by COVID-19, it is important that people get vaccinated.

“It will appear that SAR COV 2 is here to stay. That is why it is important that everyone gets vaccinated. We must therefore continue to use non pharmaceutical procedures to protect ourselves”. Mulombo said.

He also said that ” No region or country should be discriminated against for not receiving vaccination”.

He added that the issue of international travel is that of policy and diplomacy and WHO is working with those countries to address the issue.

He stressed that “No one will be safe until everyone is safe”.

Also speaking at the briefing, UNICEF Representative, Dr. Gupta Gagan, congratulated Nigeria for successfully rolling out two vaccines.

He said that “This is a very important achievement”.

He added that as Nigeria expands it’s vaccine basket further, it is important to target more people for vaccination.

The Action) Executive Secretary of the Primary Healthcare Development Board, Dr Iwot Ndaeyo, while briefing, said that the Federal Capital Territory Administration has addressed the “card buying” issue and has put mechanisms in place to make sure that it does not happen again.

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