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Nigeria expands COVID-19 vaccination drive to rural areas

Nigerian woman gets vaccinated at her home in rural area   -  
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Health workers in Nigeria are preparing to expand the nation's COVID-19 vaccination campaign, traveling to isolated, rural areas to vaccinate people and raise awareness about vaccine efficacy.

On Thursday, health workers in Kuje traveled to Sabo, a village located about 90km from the capital of Abuja, which is difficult to access due to the lack of roads.

A large proportion of those living there are reluctant to get the vaccine.

One health worker, Yunusa Bawa, explained that their principal challenge was the lack of transport, and that his health facility only has one motorcycle between them.

"Because of the far kilometers we have to go by motorcycle. For them (the villagers) to spend on transport, it's a problem for them, for coming to the health facility. So, we are planning instead to go to them" says Bawa.

The roads to Sabo are rough.

Bawa's motorcycle strains to get up an uneven hill, jerking left and right.

Later he is stopped in his tracks by a huge herd of cattle.

Once at the village, the health workers begin talking with local inhabitants and vaccinating those who decide to have the vaccine.

Alhaji Dahiru Waube, an 85-year-old local traditional ruler, explains why there has been so much skepticism towards vaccinations in the village.

"Those of us that are here, when we heard about these vaccinations, we were not given a proper explanation about it. We only heard rumors that the vaccine was going to be used to reduce the population in the next one to two years that was why people were afraid to have the vaccine" he says.

Waube was later convinced to take the vaccine to avoid the spread of the virus in his community.

"I was not bothered about taking the vaccine because I am old and close to death. So far, those of us that have taken the vaccine we have not heard about any complications - we thank God" he adds, smiling as he holds up his vaccination certificate.

The health workers' visit to Sabo follows the government's decision last week to launch a mass vaccination campaign in Abuja, to avoid a new wave of cases and to combat vaccine hesitancy.

Africa's most populous country plans to expand the COVID-19 vaccination program beyond health facilities with an ambitious goal to inoculate 50% of the target population before February 2022.

The West African nation, with more than 200 million people, is aiming to vaccinate about half of its population to reach herd immunity against COVID-19.

But it has only administered 9.1 million doses -- out of 19 million so far received -- including 3.2 million given as second shots, according to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

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