On Saturday in Abuja, Ihekweazu told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that there was a need for frontline health workers to be armed with clear communication and evidence-based information on whether or not COVID-19 vaccines could be administered to pregnant and nursing mothers.
The MSD for mothers-funded project, Reducing the Indirect Causes of Maternal Morbidity and Mortality (RICOMM), outlined the evidence for COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy and breastfeeding during a webinar in May 2021.
“Pregnancy and women who stated they were lactating were cited as reasons for non-acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine in ongoing community polling across Nigeria.
“There is a need for advisories that empower health workers with the necessary knowledge and information to better inform and reassure pregnant and nursing mothers with the right information,” she explained.
She went on to say that the country’s initial vaccine rollout focused on vulnerable populations and did not include audiences who had previously been excluded from vaccine trials, such as young children, pregnant and nursing mothers.
“As a result, many countries, erring on the side of caution, did not include them in vaccine programs at first.
”Pregnant women were initially not included as a priority group in the United Kingdom (UK), but guidance was revised and pregnant women were later encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine, as this was seen as the safest way to protect themselves and their babies from severe illness and the possibility of premature birth.
“National Health Service (NHS) data also revealed that fully vaccinated pregnant women were less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than unvaccinated pregnant women.
”Vaccination programs have also been expanded to include children aged 12 and up,” she added.
According to her, protecting the health and well-being of all Nigerians must be prioritized, as vaccines are ultimately the best hope for ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vaccines, according to the Health Watch director, are one of the greatest success stories in public health, having saved a large number of lives in the country.
“As the COVID-19 outbreak spread around the world in 2020, diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines were used to combat the outbreak.
”Vaccines were developed quickly, leveraging years of prior research and aided by increased funds made available, allowing multiple vaccine trials to take place at the same time. As a result, the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered in some countries by the end of 2020 in order to halt the virus’s spread.
“Vaccines are not a novel public health intervention for preventing disease spread. It allowed for the eradication of diseases like Smallpox, which we are fortunate to never have to worry about again. Routine childhood immunization programs are also widespread around the world,” she added.
According to Ihekweazu, the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine has put a greater emphasis on the vaccine development process.
“The breakneck speed with which they were developed raised concerns about their safety and efficacy, prompting skepticism.
”This has been one of the largest vaccine rollout programs that has occurred simultaneously around the world, and among age groups that would not normally be included in vaccine programs.
Also Read: IPOB bans Nigerian flag in Southeast
“As a result, lessons had to be learned quickly, both in terms of the logistics of getting shots in arms as quickly as possible, as well as communicating with and convincing skeptics that the benefits of taking the vaccines far outweighed any potential perceived risks.
“As countries experienced more COVID-19 infections and faced the threat of more transmissible variants and virus mutations, the need to vaccinate as many people as possible became more pressing, as not being vaccinated became a significant risk factor that led to hospitalization.
“This increased the importance of clear and consistent communication.
“Continued communication and explanation of the risks and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine has become quite a difficult task as people are tired of keeping up with the public health and safety recommendations as the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic take their toll,” she said.