Dr Solomon Chollom, a Jos-based Virologist, has advised the Federal Government against imposing Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on its workers.
He said the proposed barring of civil servants who failed to take the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines from offices by Dec. 1, was curious as it raised more questions than answers.
Chollom, who is also the spokesman of Plateau Inter-professional Health Committee on COVID-19 Response in Jos, gave the advice while fielding questions on the development from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja.
He noted that on the surface, the government decision would appear as a smart policy towards increasing vaccine uptake across the country.
NAN reports that the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 recently proposed that effective from Dec. 1, no federal government employee shall access office without presenting a safe Coronavirus certificate.
The federal workers shall be required to show proof of Coronavirus vaccination or present a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test result done within 72 hours, to gain access to their offices in all locations within Nigeria and at foreign Missions.
According to the committee, an appropriate servicewide advisory/circular will be issued to guide the process.
Reacting to the development, Chollom pointed out that the proposed policy will breach labour relations.
He said within the prism of labour laws the decision would violate fundamental rights of employees as it brushed aside people’s right to informed consent on medical decisions.
According to the expert, accepted that government is permitted to take desperate measures in form of executive decisions during emergency situations, especially those that constitute a threat to security, which public health is one.
He noted that the concern here was whether the current transmission rate, morbidity and mortality indices of the virus as well as hesitancy to the coronavirus vaccine constitute a graveous national challenge to Nigeria with economy and lives on the balance to warrant the desperate measure.
Chollom added that it appeared government had forgotten that Nigerians have raised vital questions that border on trust as far as governance during the vaccine rollout was concerned.
“To allay the fears of Nigerians who doubt the purpose and safety of the vaccines, government should have been seen to be busy raising policies and structures for in-country vaccine production, trials and evaluation to generate homegrown products and data that will answer and allay these genuine concerns.
“Unfortunately, Nigerians wake up daily to policies that seem to suggest that government has some social and economic advantage against the people in the COVID-19 pandemic,” he stressed.
He added that many Nigerians have queried why COVID-19 tests for international travels were referred to centres that charge exorbitantly, while over 70 free testing labs have been sited across the country.
Chollom however advised that the federal government should be mindful of cashing in on the vulnerable economy to entrench modern day slavery on her employees because they can accept anything to cling on to their jobs in view of the biting economy and lack of jobs around.
“What ratio of Nigerians works for the federal government to think of using them to scale up vaccine coverage to achieve herd immunity?
“Civil servants are still asking questions and agitating against policies and framework of Pensions Fund Administration, National Housing Fund and National Health Insurance Scheme, among others, for which the government has remained unresponsive.
“Instead of building confidence and looking into the issues raised regarding these policies, the government seem to be bent at raising more policies that enslave and demoralise the discouraged workforce
“Instead of usurping the rights of civil servants to medical decisions, the federal government should be seen to be aggressive on establishing framework that will allow for in-country development of products, raise more awareness on safety and efficacy of vaccines as well as have a balanced approach to all disease outbreaks especially the common ones that have been endemic in Nigeria,” the virologist explained.
He added that by this way, Nigerians would not take government efforts towards coronavirus as ulterior and self-serving.