Concerned about the low uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria despite the availability of supply, the Private Sector Health Alliance (PSHAN) has teamed up with the multinational pharmaceutical company, Sanofi to assess factors fuelling vaccine hesitancy.
The duo on Monday signed an official agreement to join efforts and resources to run an evidence-based study titled ‘COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Assessment in Nigeria (C19-VHAN).
The study aims to provide informed data required to aid various initiatives, programs, policies, and interventions currently in place to scale up the vaccination rate in the country.
PSHAN will undertake the 6-month study with the support of Sanofi’s resources and expertise in vaccines.
It is expected that health actors seeking to design awareness campaigns and other interventions to improve vaccine acceptance will find the results of the research guiding.
“Vaccine hesitancy is a delay or refusal to accept vaccination even when there is enough supply. When we first started vaccination in Nigeria, demand was high that people were bribing to get it. Now we have vaccines flushed all over the place but people are not taking them. We have to find the reason. We thank Sanofi for collaborating with PSHAN,” Tinuola Akinbolagbe, PSHAN’s chief executive officer said, speaking during the sign-off in Lagos capital, Ikeja.
Akinbolagbe noted that the not-for-profit body had identified hesitancy as the biggest single factor hindering Nigeria from achieving optimal vaccination rates.
Citing that forty percent of Nigerians are unwilling to take the Covid-19 vaccine despite the availability of vaccine services, she said hesitancy is worsened by issues from misinformation to misconceptions and ignorance among others.
Data from the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 16.9 percent of Nigeria’s population has been partially vaccinated. 13.3 percent are fully vaccinated while 0.4 percent have received booster doses.
Nigeria has received close to 116 million doses of vaccines in total supply, sufficient to fully 58 million people. However, approximately 29 million have received complete vaccination.
The failure to address hesitancy has hampered initiatives such as the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund program which set out to vaccinate one million Nigerians by 2022, she said.
The consequence has been those vulnerable populations including the elderly, migrants and rural women who risk higher exposure to the virus and its variants might suffer more.
It is to address this that the organisation has partnered with Sanofi to improve public health and human capital development.
Oluwale Akinbowale, general manager and country lead at Sanofi, charged both parties to see the initiative through and ensure it has a sustainability framework lasting up to five or 10 years. This, he said, will result in a multiplier effect and impact more Nigerians.
He also stressed that realistic expectations of what the project can achieve should be set for impact.
“For us, healthcare is a shared responsibility and we believe that we have to work together with multiple stakeholders to address different barriers along the healthcare journey of Nigerians. We believe PSHAN will be able to help us understand why we have a lot of hesitancy. We are supporting the exercise. It’s an independent project of PSHAN but our responsibility is to support PSHAN with resources to achieve this including our expertise in vaccines,”Akinbowale.
On her path, Alejandra Martinez, Sanofi’s head of Vaccines Public Affairs, International commended the partnership for its relevance to understanding the root of what is going on with hesitancy.
She said, “it will be a basis for pulling on the top of the public agenda vaccination hesitation and bring in tools for decision makers to really incorporate these findings”.