The Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib has described as baseless the misinformation making the rounds on the social media that COVID-19 vaccines are not safe and are a conspiracy by developed countries of the world to depopulate Africa.

Shuaib, who made the statement during a sensitization meeting with Christian leaders and scholars on COVID-19 vaccine organized by the agency, said the vaccines will be subjected to verification and test by Nigeria’s regulatory agency, the National Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) before use, adding that religious leaders and faith-based organizations will play a crucial role in mitigating the spread of the virus.

In his address, the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle said COVID-19 is real, very deadly and that it is for the good of Nigerians to adhere to safety protocols as put forth by the Presidential Task Force on the disease, adding that it is only by the grace and mercies of God that Nigeria has not perished under the pandemic.

While calling on Christians and the entire people of Nigeria to shun recalcitrance towards the non-pharmaceutical interventions, Rev. Ayokunle said, “We must not take the grace of God for granted. All protocols must be obeyed to protect us from COVID-19. It is not good to borrow the reckless confidence that COVID-19 is not existing. We have seen Christians that have died.”

He called on church leaders such as Pastors and Reverends to encourage their members to respect constituted authorities by observing all protocols regarding the fight against the pandemic.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha called on Christian leaders to improve on the level of compliance in churches just as the virus does not know religious or tribal inclinations.

“The virus is no respecter of persons. It has affected every group of persons in our society including the religious institutions. This is why we must come together as one people with one voice to use our influence to promote both the non-pharmaceutical preventive measures and vaccination”.

He also urged religious leaders to use their God-given offices to educate their members to be responsible for uplifting the health of their families and the entire society.

“Religious rulers are highly revered in our society, it is important that we leverage on this divine influence to instil in our people the sense of taking responsibility for themselves and their loved ones by wearing face masks, observing hand hygiene, physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings and unnecessary travels,” Boss added.

He reemphasized the position of the ED that the government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has the safety, health and wellbeing of the people as one of its cardinal objectives and that the government will not do anything rash to jeopardize this objective.

Also speaking during the sensitization meeting, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said COVID-19 is no respecter of any kind of divides or boundaries and that it may discriminate according to age and a person’s state of health, but certainly not according to tribe or religion.

He called for collaborative efforts by all stakeholders to end the pandemic, saying “in the face of this threat to mankind, it is imperative that we gather as one people, with one voice to deliberate on how to save ourselves and use all means to survive.