Religious leaders join chorus of support for vaccination in Nigeria
Initially silent, respected religious leaders in Nigeria are beginning to make their voices heard in support of COVID-19 vaccines.
- 27 October 2021
- 4 min read
- by Eric Dumo
Mrs Modupe Kayode will not forget 2 October 2021 in a hurry. On that fateful day, she made up her mind to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after watching a telecast by Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
“It is foolish to keep having faith that God will protect you from an infection when He has made provision for vaccines that can provide a high percentage of protection. I have taken the jab. I prayed about it and got a clear direction from God to go and receive it.”
Pastor Adeboye leads one of the largest Christian congregations in Nigeria and has a devoted following. During a vigil service that day, the clergyman, who had previously been silent on COVID-19 vaccines while conspiracy theories worked their way around the community, spoke in support of the life-saving medicine.
"If there are nations in the world that say that I cannot come to preach the gospel there because of vaccination, I will do anything for Jesus Christ. If no vaccination is going to hinder me from doing the work God has called me to do, even if they ask me to be vaccinated 100 times, I will be vaccinated,” Adeboye says.
The clergyman’s declaration changed Kayode’s mind – and that of countless other Nigerians – about the COVID-19 vaccines. These Nigerians make up the core of the country’s deeply religious population, split between a Christian South and Muslim North.
“I and my family members have made up our minds to take the vaccine,” she says with a tinge of excitement. She adds, “We had doubts before but our father – Pastor Adeboye – has encouraged us to take it with his words last week, so we will take the vaccine,” she adds.
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Johnson Osakwe, a business owner from Edo State, is also taking the vaccine after listening to Adeboye.
“If Pastor Adeboye can speak in support of the vaccine, many of us now have confidence that it is safe, so I will take it,” he says.
Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, founder of Kingsway International Christian Centre, a large Pentecostal movement with branches all over Nigeria, has also spoken in favour of the vaccine.
“I have taken the vaccine. I encourage all to take the vaccine. Don’t listen to conspiracy theorists. Some have said a lot of things about the vaccine, don’t listen to them,” he tells his followers.
Another church leader, Senior Pastor of Trinity Church, Ituah Ighodalo, says that the life-saving medicines were created by God through scientists and so should be taken.
“It is foolish to keep having faith that God will protect you from an infection when He has made provision for vaccines that can provide a high percentage of protection. I have taken the jab. I prayed about it and got a clear direction from God to go and receive it. I have explained this to my people in church,” he says.
In September, as a response to the support that top Christian leaders across Nigeria have lent to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, extended vaccination exercises to churches during Sunday services to increase the number of citizens taking the jab.
“For this second phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, we have introduced Sunday vaccination. I must say that feedback is very encouraging and I thank all Christian leaders who have given the vaccination team access to their churches and members to receive COVID-19 vaccine during Sunday services,” he says.
Muslim religious leaders have also added their voices in support of COVID-19 vaccines. Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, and Director of Muslim Rights Concern, Professor Ishaq Akintola, are two leading voices in this community. While Sultan Abubakar is encouraging public office holders to take the jab to boost confidence amongst the people, Professor Akintola said that there was a robust plan in place to create more awareness on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
“To ensure that all Muslims take the COVID-19 vaccine, we have developed a workable strategy of engaging our people through quality, sustainable and practical visual and audio awareness campaigns with contextual communication that is convincing and effective,” he says.
On 16 August, Nigeria rolled out the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination after receiving four million doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by the United States through the COVAX Facility, as well as 117,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine through the African Union and Afrexim Bank. Another 42.5 million doses are expected soon from the COVAX facility, African Union and other donors.
At the time of writing, 2.17 million Nigerians were fully vaccinated while 7.13 million doses of the vaccines had been administered. The figure is expected to swell significantly in the coming weeks, especially with respected religious leaders now encouraging followers to take the jab.