Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, denied the allegation, arguing that since the hospital does not have the vaccine in stock, the supposed extortion could not have taken place in the hospital.
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Despite recent warnings by the Federal Government against illegal sale of Meningitis C vaccines, members of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and other clients complain of difficulties before obtaining the vaccines.
However, Lagos Director for Disease control, Dr. Erinosho Eniola, said the state is yet to receive the vaccine, arguing that since about 13,420 suspected cases of meningitis have been reported from 23 states with 1,069 deaths, the vaccine is still not available at Lagos public hospitals.
Yet, some NYSC members, who spoke to The Guardian yesterday, including, Angela, Promise Umeh and Obinna, disclosed that staffers at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), demanded N6, 500 from them as gratification before accessing the vaccines.
One of the respondents, who identified himself simply as Obinna, said upon his posting to Kano for the mandatory one-year service, possession of the vaccine was given as one of the pre-camping requirements.
Narrating how he went to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), and other general hospitals without success, he added: “When we came to LUTH, one of the nurses asked us to pay N6, 500 for the vaccine, I thought the vaccine was supposed to be free at government hospitals.”
Another prospective corps member, Promise Umeh, while confirming the allegation of extortion, disclosed that she was also asked to pay N9, 000 before getting the vaccine, stressing that corps members were desperate to obtain the vaccine.
On her part, Angela said although she went to some private hospitals where the vaccine sells at N15, 000, she could not understand why a public facility should be selling instead of giving it out free.
When contacted, Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, denied the allegation, arguing that since the hospital does not have the vaccine in stock, the supposed extortion could not have taken place in the hospital.
The Federal Government, which has maintained meningitis vaccine is free throughout the country, has been advising Nigerians against paying for it.
For instance, Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, in a statement, called on citizens to report any health centre or health worker who extorts money for the ongoing meningitis immunisation to the nearest law enforcement agency.
Shuaib noted that vaccination against CSM, like other vaccination in the National Immunization schedule, is free, adding that government had spent billions of naira to procure, store, maintain and distribute such vaccines to all parts of the country.
According to him, the vaccines preventable diseases are covered free-of-charge under the National Immunisation schedule, which include; Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG), Poliomyelitis and Hepatitis B.
He listed others as: Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus toxoid -(Pentavelent vaccines), Haemophilus influenza type B, Pneumococcal vaccines, Inactivated Polio virus vaccines, Measles, Yellow Fever and of course, Meningitis vaccines.
In the interim, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Communications Officer, Lawal Bakare, recently disclosed that Meningitis outbreak continues to decline as more vaccines arrive, stressing that efforts at securing more vaccines for the country are continuing with another batch of vaccines expected to arrive in the next few days and mobilising vaccines for other affected states continues to be a priority.
A recent NCDC report on the outbreak indicates a drop in the number of cases, adding: “In the previous two weeks, the most affected States (namely Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina and Kebbi States) have all recorded a drop in number of cases. Kebbi and Niger States reported zero deaths over this period.”
Meanwhile, Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, yesterday, told newsmen that the Federal Government would cover all prospective corps members posted to high-risk states.
“We shall cover NYSC members going to high-risk states free. We have to link up with NYSC on Monday to address this urgently,” Adewole said.