Compulsory vaccination: Workers demand March deadline, throng centres, FG insists on Dec 1

Civil-servants

The Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria has asked the Federal Government to extend till March next year,  today’s (Wednesday) deadline for the compulsory vaccination of  civil servants.

The General Secretary of the ASCSN, Alade Lawal, who stated this in an interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday, said the extension was necessary to enable all  civil servants to take the jab and avoid a stampede at the vaccination centres.

But the Technical Lead of the  Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr Muktar Muhammed, told one of our correspondents that the deadline would not be extended.

As labour union and the PSC disagreed on the deadline, federal civil servants across the country on Tuesday thronged vaccination centres to get vaccinated.

The PSC led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had in October said that federal workers without proof of COVID-19 vaccination or test results done within 72 hours would be denied access to their offices starting from December 1 (today).

Mustapha said the directive would be applicable in all locations in Nigeria and missions abroad.

But commenting on the development, Lawal stated that his union would make a strong appeal to the Federal Government not to enforce the directive till next year to enable more civil servants to take the jab.

According to him, the letter on the demand would get to government today (Wednesday). He added that while the ASCSN supported the vaccination mandate being enforced by the Federal Government, there was a need to give the people adequate time to get vaccinated.

He stated, “We agree that we must vaccinate in view of the combative nature of the virus. At the same time, they should give us time because of the number of people involved so that they can extend the deadline. That’s our appeal to the government, a strong appeal.“We would make the appeal through a letter. The letter will get to them latest tomorrow (today) morning. We want them to extend it till end of March next year.

“It would be better. I know that the gap between the first jab and second jab for Moderna vaccine is about a month or six weeks. Peradventure, somebody that has not taken as we speak now and wants to take by next week, you are talking of next year.

“In this kind of thing, you must be able to arrange something so you don’t start arranging again so that all and sundry would know that the government has tried. It should not be too compact so that there would be no room for manoeuvres.”

But the Secretary-General, Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government-Owned Companies, Dr Ayo Olorunfemi, dismissed the moves to compel workers to take the vaccines, noting that the government should rather focus on building the economy and developing the infrastructure.

He stated, “Why are they forcing people to take the vaccines? They should focus on building the economy and other important things. You know some people are enriching themselves through these vaccines. What is going on shows that this government has lost focus. They don’t know what they are doing. We have an unserious government that takes delight in pursuing shadows.”

When one of our correspondents reached out to the Technical lead of the PSC,  Muhammed, on the possible extension of the deadline, he said, “We are not contemplating any extension of the December 1 deadline. People who acquired the cards will be apprehended, how we do that we keep it to our chest.”

Meanwhile, federal civil servants on Tuesday stormed vaccination sites ahead of today’s  deadline.

The workers thronged designated centres such as the Federal Staff Clinic, Federal Secretariat complex, phase 1; Federal Ministry of Works and Housing Clinic, Mabushi; Federal Ministry of Finance Staff clinic and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Staff Clinic.

It was also observed that in a bid to contain the increase in the number of civil servants who came out to vaccination, makeshift centres were also created adjacent the federal ministries of health and education.

Our correspondents observed that civil servants, who came at 12pm  were told to write down their names and come back later due to the influx of civil servants waiting to be vaccinated.

Some civil servants, who spoke to The PUNCH on   condition of anonymity as a result of public service rules, said they delayed their vaccination due to fear of the unknown.

Meanwhile, security operatives have started barring civil servants and visitors who fail to use facemasks from government buildings in Abuja.

At the main gate leading to the Federal Ministry of Education, The PUNCH observed that people who failed to use their facemasks were turned back while most offices had inscriptions such as “no face mask no entry” on their doors.

Also in Jos, federal civil servants rushed to various vaccination centres to beat the deadline.

Checks by The PUNCH  revealed  most of the Federal Government ministries, departments and agencies did not have  vaccination centres.The  development, it was  gathered, made the workers especially  those who had yet to get vaccinated for the first time to abandon their duty posts in search of a vaccination centre .Some of the workers, who were seen at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, one of the vaccination centres,  lamented the situation .

One of them said “ I have not taken the vaccine before. We have to come here (JUTH ) for the vaccines because we don’t have a vaccine centre at the federal secretariat  .

“Even the State  Secretariat close to us  has a centre, but the people there were many. Since they said tomorrow is the deadline, we have to leave our offices to make sure that we are vaccinated because we don’t know what will follow after the deadline elapsed.”

Another civil servant, who said he had taken the first jab, said he could not take the second jab because it was not available.

“I have taken the first jab (AstraZeneca) and they said I should come for the second. But when I went there, they told me that I should come back next week because the type of vaccine I took earlier was not  available and since I cannot take a different one for the second jab, I had to return home hoping that it will be available next week for me to complete the vaccination.”

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