Your Stories: “I couldn’t afford to catch the coronavirus — literally”Updated: July 6th, 2021
Akindare Okunola lives in Lagos, Nigeria, and thanks to a combination of pre-existing conditions, lack of social protection programmes and having quit his job just before the pandemic, he found himself in the position of literally could being able to afford to catch coronavirus.
Since then, he’s been following every social distancing protocol to the letter. He wrote for Global Citizen about his quest to get a vaccine in the midst of global supply challenges with vaccines and worldwide issues with equitable distribution of jabs.
You can read an except below, and his full article here.
‘From the day of the first lockdown to the arrival of Nigeria’s first batch of COVID-19 vaccines it has been rough (to say the least), but we persevered. Like many people around the world, for me, the vaccines felt like we finally had a weapon to push back this devastating virus and its chokehold on the country and our lives…
In total, Nigeria received just over 4.3 million vials of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine which is enough to cover less than 1% of Nigeria’s 200 million people. The government announced that frontline health workers, government officials, and people with pre-existing conditions would be prioritised in the vaccination rollout.
Given my health conditions, I quickly tried to register on the government-ascribed portal several times — all of which were unsuccessful until about three weeks after vaccinations had begun. I received a vaccination number a few hours after my successful registration and that was it…
On Wednesday April 14, after lots of inquiries, I had an address for a vaccination centre in Surulere, a lower-middle class suburb on the Lagos mainland. When I arrived at the location, I was informed by the security officer on site that the vaccination site had been moved a few streets away to another location.
The second location was a courthouse and a portion of the compound had been sectioned off for what looked like other routine immunisation services (polio, measles, etc.) and adapted for COVID-19 vaccination.
In fact, the court was in session when I arrived and the lady at the vaccination desk, who spoke to me under the condition of anonymity, told me in hushed tones that the site had run out of vaccines the day before (April 13).
I went to three other confirmed vaccination sites after that: a soldier at the gate of a military hospital in Yaba told me that location stopped vaccinations on April 9 — he didn’t say why; the nurse at another health centre in the same vicinity told me something similar — vaccinations have stopped since the previous week…
Through reports of global supply challenges with vaccines and worldwide issues with equitable distribution of jabs, I have chosen to continue to follow social distancing protocols and am looking forward to when Nigeria can access its next batch of vaccines, so I can try to get vaccinated again.
In a broader sense, I am even more concerned about the millions of vulnerable Nigerians who do not have the kind of access (more than 50% of Nigerians don’t have internet access), opportunity, and privilege I have as a lower middle-class Nigerian. If they can’t access the vaccines, we can’t end the pandemic in Nigeria, or the world for that matter.
We must call on world leaders, philanthropists, and every relevant authority to ensure that everyone — and especially the most vulnerable people — have access to the COVID-19 vaccines. That is the only way we can truly end this pandemic and get back some semblance of life as we once knew.’