Before the launch of the COVID-19 vaccination exercise in Kano state, there were concerns about its safety and efficacy. Hajara Abubakar, from Nasarawa local government, said,  “I don’t want to be vaccinated in this first phase, I’ll wait to see the outcome of others who have taken the vaccine I believe there is COVID-19 but I don’t trust the government” Trust, however, was what made Dr Gwani Faruk Umar, the president of the Association for the Advancement of the Rights of Nigeria Shareholders, have himself and members of his family vaccinated. He stated that his conviction was a result of the efforts of the Nigerian government, especially its leaders as the President and Vice President of Nigeria and the Kano state governor all got vaccinated.

As a stakeholder and a Qur’anic reciter in Kano, he called on all Qur’anic reciters to disregard propaganda and take the vaccine. He said “I am calling on all citizens and non-citizens in Kano to get the vaccine, we must protect ourselves and not be fooled by misinformation spread on social media. This vaccine is for everybody. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

As of February 15, 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had provided  Emergency Use Listing (EULs) for at least three different vaccines including two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and SK Bioscience. EULs, according to the WHO, opens the door for countries to expedite their regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine. In early March 2021, Nigeria received 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine through the COVAX facility, led by the WHO. Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Department Agency (NPHCDA) assured Nigerians that the vaccine had been certified safe and effective by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Cyprian Ngong, a senior registrar at the National Hospital Abuja was the first person to receive the vaccine. Ngong expressed his happiness after getting vaccinated saying: “I’ve been longing to be vaccinated. And now as you can see, I am still feeling okay.”

On March 9, 2021, Kano received 209,520 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. The State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje was administered the vaccine as he launched the exercise in the State. He urged the public to get registered and vaccinated. Dismissing all rumours of harm related to the vaccine, Dr Tijani Hussain, the Kano state coordinator of the Technical Response Team (TRT) stated that the government and the Kano state task force on COVID-19 were working round the clock to enlighten those doubting the safety of the vaccine in the state. He assured the residents that the vaccine is safe for those who are willing to take it. “Majority of the people who will receive this vaccine will not feel anything,” stressed Dr Tijani. “Only a little percentage will experience what’s called ‘side effect’, and this is just some changes from normalcy they may experience after the injection, and it doesn’t last any longer.” 

A total of 509 healthcare centres with five healthcare workers each were designated to offer the 209,520 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine around Kano state, said Dr Tijani, with focus on frontline healthcare workers, the elderly, and people with severe health issues before considering other people but people outside these categories have received the jab in many of these centres around Kano. Explaining why this is, Dr Tijjani said even if the entire health care workers in Kano were to be administered the vaccine, the state will still have more doses left. “The entire health workers in Kano from the 3 tertiary health facilities, 40 secondary facilities and 1,200 primary facilities, and about 200 private facilities aren’t up to 50,000. This leaves you with a balance of more than 150,000 doses in the state. So, while we are targeting the health workers, others are coming to be vaccinated, and we wouldn’t want to deny them an opportunity to have themselves protected against the disease.” A lot of non-frontline officials have come forward to get the vaccine in Kano. 

Samira Umar, 23,  a businesswoman from Tarauni local government area who also had the first jab of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine at the Gwagwarwa vaccination centre in Nassarawa local government area said she was convinced to take the vaccine because it is a solution to the world as it struggles to fight the deadly pandemic. “Even if you don’t have the confidence, seeing people dying every day of COVID-19 is enough reason for you to give the vaccine a trial. As it is, I do not fall into the categories of those considered for this first phase, but I am still young, and I think I can easily contract the virus and spread it around especially to my aged mother. Therefore, I think everyone should be allowed to get vaccinated irrespective of their health condition, age, or status”. For this reason, Umar came along with her older sister, Salwa Umar, to the vaccination centre. 

Another resident of Kano who got vaccinated at the Gwagwarwa vaccination centre was Mr Mohan Raj, an Indian national who works with Mr Chef Restaurant in Nasarawa local government area. “I am taking the vaccine to prevent myself from the COVID-19 virus. I am convinced of its safety because many experts even from India have testified to that” He said. The dosing interval given to all vaccinated persons in Kano state was  12-weeks after being administered the first dose. Experts like Muhammad Nura Yahaya, the state coordinator of home-based care for COVID-19 confirmed that the vaccine is more effective after the second dose booster.

It is evident in Kano state that many people are still not willing to come forward for vaccination. This is a huge challenge and all relevant stakeholders in the state need to do more to address it.

This narrative was done in April 2021 as part of the #COVID19NigeriaStories documentation project on state-level responses to COVID-19, implemented by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Nigeria Health Watch with support from the Ford Foundation.

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