THE proposed Control of Infectious Disease Bill sponsored by Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila and submitted in the lower chamber on April 28, is set to make vaccinations compulsory for all Nigerians, checks by The ICIR has revealed.
The draft bill which is a duplicate of Singapore’s Infectious Disease Act of 1977, contains measures that have been described as draconian in nature and aimed at stifling the rights of Nigerian citizens as contained in the 1999 Constitution.
Certain provisions in the bill has indeed generated controversy on social media.
Many have condemned sections including the aspect which empowers security officials to arrest and detain citizens without warrant or higher level authority on mere suspicion of having an infectious disease.
A bothersome article in the proposed bill which is now sparkling outrage is section 47 (1) of the bill.
Titled Power to order certain persons to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis, the section of the bill, empowers the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to, in the case of a suspected or an infectious disease outbreak in the country, order compulsory vaccination for any person(s) in any area of the country.
The section reads: “In an outbreak or a suspected outbreak of any infectious disease in any area in Nigeria, the Director-General (DG) may by order direct any person or class of persons not protected or vaccinated against the disease to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis within such period as may be specified in the order.”
If passed into law, this provision would empower the DG to make any form of vaccination (if believed to treat any infectious disease) compulsory for all Nigerians, in any area of the country, at any given time.
The section also makes it compulsory for every child in the country to be vaccinated against infectious diseases and their parents must ensure adherence.
It also requires a notice for vaccination to be issued for newborns right after their birth.
For all it’s worth, Nigerians and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have protested against the proposed bill which they believe is designed to give excessive power to unelected public officials, and trample on the rights of citizens.
Debate on vaccination
While many support givng vaccine as prevention from infection, they disagree with compulsory administration of vaccine on every Nigerian as the new bill seeks to achieve.
On a global scale, while vaccines are responsible for many global public health successes, such as the eradication of smallpox and significant reductions in other serious infections like polio and measles, there were cases of vaccine failures which led to complications.
For example, high school students in Maury County, Tennessee in the United States experienced an outbreak of mumps in 1991 in which over a thousand students were infected, yet all but one of them had been vaccinated against mumps, according to a 1994 report.
Notwithstanding, Tedros Adhanom, Director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), has said that every year, more than 116 million children are protected from deadly diseases in routine vaccination programmes.
Meanwhile, Gbajabiamila on Tuesday, announced that the proposed Infectious Disease Bill will now be subject to public hearing.
In a statement of address, the Speaker debunked the perceived purpose of the Bill, submitting that House of Representatives will never bring harm to Nigerians and would only work to serve interests of the citizens.
In his remarks to the House during a plenary on Tuesday, the Speaker announced that the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill will be put forward to a public hearing where stakeholder contributions will be sought to make improvements to the Bill before it is reviewed and debated by the Committee.