Private hospitals in Lagos will now charge N6,000 for COVID-19 vaccines as the state government approves the rate on those seeking protection against the deadly pandemic outside its facilities.
Although the vaccines will remain free under all state-controlled facilities, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State governor on Wednesday announced private players will pass on the administrative cost of rolling out the jab to recipients, despite the vaccines coming free from donors.
This comes at a time when the dust is yet to settle on the federal government’s plan to mandate vaccination across the country, and when significant apathy remains towards vaccine uptake, which the government has had a hard time tackling.
“This is to allow the private sector to recoup the resources they have deployed in the process of administering this vaccine. We encourage all Lagos residents to visit our listed public facilities to receive this vaccine at no cost to them; however, those that wish to receive them in the comforts of a private facility can do so at this administrative cost,” Sanwo-Olu said, speaking during the launch of a state-wide mass-vaccination campaign against the COVID-19 virus.
After side-lining it in managing COVID-19 during the early months of the pandemic, the government is bringing in private sector players, many of them grabbing the opportunities in the loopholes of the government’s handling of the pandemic
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First, they were allowed to wade into PCR testing which is largely driven by overseas travel criteria and now, they are taking on vaccinations at a fee that has stirred uproar.
It’s not clear if the move is an indirect approach to encourage vaccine uptake but angry reactions are trailing the decision with Nigerians wondering why it should come with such cost.
Kalu Aja, in a tweet on Wednesday, said it was disgraceful for private hospitals to accept payments and for government to mandate a fee for donated vaccines.
“Lagos State is the only place on planet earth where Covid vaccines are billed and compulsory. You are mandating a fee for a vaccine that was donated free to you! COVID-19 is not internally generated revenue,” he said.
The government plans to set up mass vaccination sites in high-traffic locations across the state, with mobile vans to move around settlements in hard-to-reach areas with limited access to health facilities.
In its effort to improve ensure vaccine equity in the state, COVID-19 vaccination fixed posts will be set up across 205 public health primary centres, 14 secondary and tertiary hospitals, and 400 private health centres across the 57 local government areas and local council development areas.
“At the core of this campaign, we aim to strengthen vaccine equity to ensure that every resident of Lagos State has a fair and equal chance to fully access the vaccine regardless of who they are or where they are from which is key to seeing the unbearable impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”, Sanwo-Olu said.
Faisal Shuaib, chief executive of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), in his remarks said over 5.5 million eligible persons have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria as of the 26th of October 2021 adding that 2.9 million have received their second dose and are fully vaccinated.
These represent 5 percent and 2.6 percent of the targeted eligible population of 111.7 million, he noted.
He raised concern that the data’s apparent indication that the country was far from reaching its target of vaccinating almost 112 million eligible persons, which is necessary to attain herd immunity against COVID-19.
“This campaign is an important step in that direction. The campaign is a carefully designed and quality-controlled strategy that creates greater access to COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria through prudent expansion of vaccination sites and involvement of private and even more public health facilities in vaccine administration. We now have enough vaccines, so this is the opportunity to get vaccinated”, he said.