In spite of the many benefits of COVID-19 vaccination, to date, many Nigerians are reluctant to get vaccinated.
They instead resort to procuring vaccination cards without getting vaccinated when they need it to enable them to travel out of the country, or when vaccination is mandatory in their organisations.
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Health institutions and experts in the country have said those who fraudulently acquire vaccination cards without getting vaccinated are at risk of COVID-19, and also putting others at risk.
They encourage Nigerians to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others from the disease. Also, the federal government has said it will prosecute those who acquire COVID-19 vaccination cards fraudulently without vaccination.
Recently, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) nabbed five travellers for fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.
The Executive Director of the agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said the travellers had gotten the cards fraudulently without being vaccinated.
He said officials of Port-Health Service (PHS) at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja, apprehended them and notified the agency.
They had presented the fake COVID-19 vaccination cards while trying to pass through the clearance process at the airport.
Dr Shuaib said all the suspects have been profiled and documented by the Department of State Services (DSS) unit at the FCT State command of the state security service for further action.
The agency had last year warned that it is collaborating with the State Security Services (SSS), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and other law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute people who fraudulently acquired the COVID-19 vaccination cards without getting vaccinated.
Dr Shuaib said possession of vaccination cards without receiving the vaccines is criminal and punishable by law.
“Those who want to sell and those who want to buy will jointly be prosecuted and we are taking this seriously because the activities of these few individuals can bring into disrepute the integrity of the whole vaccination process in Nigeria.
“We are keeping a close watch to ensure that this kind of activity does not happen. We will name and shame all individuals involved in it, including those trying to procure the cards. The secret service will be on the lookout for these types of individuals and they will be apprehended and prosecuted,” he stated.
Medical experts say COVID-19 vaccines are safe and people should endeavour to take them rather than cut corners.
Dr Murtala Jibril of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Bayero University Kano, said COVID-19 vaccines are safe and have a 94 per cent potential to protect vaccinated people from the virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said getting vaccinated is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against COVID-19, help end the pandemic and stop new variants emerging.
“Take all COVID-19 vaccine doses recommended to you by your health authority as soon as it is your turn, including a booster dose if recommended,” the organisation said.
“All vaccines in the country are safe for use. Before a vaccine is confirmed for use, it must receive approval and authorization from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“In Nigeria, in addition to WHO approval and authorisation, the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) certifies all vaccines including COVID-19 vaccines’ safety for use. Even when the vaccine is in use, NAFDAC continues to monitor the vaccine to ensure all safety guidelines are maintained,” NPHCDA said.