Oluwaseun Osowobi, Executive Director of the Stand to End Rape Initiative (SERI), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Lagos, Nigeria, was amongst the first Nigerians to test positive for COVID-19 in early 2020 after a trip to the United Kingdom. She became incredibly sick and came close to dying. 

Osowobi says she would not wish on her worst enemies the hell she went through for the five weeks she was sick with the coronavirus.

"That I am alive today is because I am preserved to be a change agent in the fight against COVID-19. After surviving the virus in 2020, I believed I had to make my impact felt by contributing to saving humanity from the deadly virus. First, I ensured that I was vaccinated so as not to be a risk to others."

Given a second chance at life, the human rights activist says she is committed to using her time, money and experience to encourage Nigerians to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

Osowobi recalls: "I was elated when the government of Nigeria rolled out the COVID-19 vaccines (received through the COVAX facility) in March 2021. I am fully vaccinated because I know the benefits of vaccines. And, as someone who had a near-death experience, I have leveraged my NGO to work in synergy with others to change the perspectives around vaccinations.”

She adds, "To break the barriers of fear and hesitancy, we visit various places such as restaurants, pubs, motor parks, churches and markets, amongst others, to encourage vaccinations. We equally use social media platforms to enlighten and encourage many Nigerians yet to be vaccinated."

Osowobi, who also joined a global campaign for vaccine awareness, says, "Personally, I have a strong social media presence. I write about COVID-19 and use my own personal story to encourage people both in Nigeria and abroad. I also joined the Global Citizen campaign where I have made many videos on benefits of the vaccines.” 

She goes on to say, "When we visited some places, we started with the question ‘have you been vaccinated?’ And if their answer was 'no', we interrogated the reasons. If it's about fear, hesitancy or ignorance around COVID-19, we provided more information so they could get better educated. We are happy about what we have achieved so far in our vaccine campaign. We are not resting on our laurels."

Mr Etim Effiong, Managing Director of Jeteg Investment Nigeria Limited, publishers of Citizen Diary (an online newspaper), is one of those swayed by Osowobi's message and decided to be vaccinated after months of hesitancy.

"Initially, I was unwilling to be vaccinated. But, after listening to Osowobi's story about her struggle with COVID-19 and the benefits to be derived from vaccination, I changed my mind," Effiong reveals.

"Today, I am fully vaccinated. Many of my friends have also followed suit. I have encouraged many people who have also embraced the vaccine. I consider it a social service I owe to society to encourage as many people as possible that the vaccine is life and it should be embraced with open arms."

For 27-year-old Audrey Consul, a health education specialist, surviving the dreaded virus in 2020 changed her perception of life greatly. Ever since, she has been at the forefront of encouraging many people to take their vaccines.

Consul says, "I am one of the youth cell leaders in our church. I shared the horrendous experience I went through when I tested positive for COVID-19 to members of our cell and other church members. I urged them to thank God that vaccines have been made available and the need for them to embrace vaccination without any hesitation.

"Many of those who heard my story changed their minds and went to vaccination centres to get their jabs. I also organised a few cell members into a volunteer group to visit some underprivileged communities in the countryside to spread the vaccination message and some were even led to vaccination centres by volunteers," she adds.

Also working passionately to push for more vaccinations, is another survivor, Hillary Nwankwo, a banker in Lagos.

He recalls, "That I am alive today is because I am preserved to be a change agent in the fight against COVID-19. After surviving the virus in 2020, I believed I had to make my impact felt by contributing to saving humanity from the deadly virus. First, I ensured that I was vaccinated so as not to be a risk to others."

He goes on to say, "Our organisation asked me to mentor others on how to stay safe. I made it clear to them that besides observing covid-19 protocols, vaccination was key. My encouragement has led to a massive vaccination of many bankers and bank workers. To encourage the larger society, I have reached out to different groups of people including those in my home in the Eastern part of Nigeria to boost vaccination."

TOPICS: Country storiesCOVID-19COVAX

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