A week after Cyprian Ngong, a medical doctor in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, got a jab that marked the launch of vaccine rollout in Nigeria, no official data on the number of vaccinated individuals are publicly accessible.
Varying quantities of AstraZeneca vaccinedoses received from the global initiative, COVAX facility, have been delivered to at least 14 states in the past few days, with state executives getting the first inoculations to drive public confidence.
But what has been provided so far is just the size of the allocation to states, keeping the specific number of jabs administered away from public scrutiny or tracking.
BusinessDay understands that the government platform responsible for vaccine distribution, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), does not plan to publish vaccination data daily in the manner the National Centre for Disease Control has fed the public with data on new cases of infections, deaths and recoveries.
When pressed, an official who didn’t want to be mentioned said accounting for doses administered daily could add unnecessary burden to the tasks before the agency.
“To think about getting every day how many people have been vaccinated…yes, the office can get that and we can put all that together in a document and publish periodically. But doing that every day isn’t realistic,” the source said in a phone interview.
This is contrary to what obtains in other countries. The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, for instance, features on its website a dashboard that displays charts of data on total doses delivered, total administered, percentage who have received a single dose, those fully vaccinated, type of vaccine, age group and race. The UK has a similar platform, as well India.
Scepticism around transparency and accountability was already building up before the arrival of the vaccines in Nigeria, with many concerned that the vaccines might be misallocated, hoarded or diverted as an extortion tool, just as governments mismanaged food palliatives donated during months of lockdown in 2020.
In a March 1 post, Fidelis Egemba, a medical doctor with a substantial Twitter following by the appellation Aproko Doctor, raised some dust on how free COVAX vaccines could become tied to a price in the hands of corrupt officials.
“There will be criminals within the system asking for money to either make your name come up on the list or something. You’re not supposed to pay a kobo. It’s totally free,” Egemba wrote.
The lack of transparent data on vaccination seems to affirm this sort of public mistrust, especially as people with debatable status for priority have started getting vaccinated.
Runcie Chidebe, executive director, Project Pink Blue, a non-profit cancer advocacy group, faulted the idea of having personal assistants and aides to key heads of government receive jabs ahead of many frontline healthcare workers who have witnessed loss of colleagues.
He fears that if a dashboard that clearly indicates the volume of vaccination across the country is not provided, the country might see ineligible friends and associates of those in power getting vaccinated before priority groups such as cancer patients or survivors.
“To be honest, I’m not sure there will be a remake of the palliative drama. Many people cannot have access to vaccines like looted palliatives. What can happen is people who should not be prioritised having access to this vaccine,” Chidebe said.
“For instance, giving this vaccine to special assistants or people who are close to the president or governors will be a very serious issue. This is a call to action to both federal and state governments to be more transparent to not just Nigerians, but the international community,” he said.