The Lagos State Government has vaccinated about 1,700 intending pilgrims for the year 2021 holy pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The two-day vaccination exercise which took place on Saturday and Sunday at the Adeyemi-Bero Auditorium, Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja, was conducted by officials of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Health.
Speaking during the exercise, the State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi, emphasised that since the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the requirements for gaining entry into Saudi Arabia, it became compulsory and expedient for every intending pilgrim, Ulamah (clerics) and staff, among others, to get the vaccine.
He disclosed that 1,518 intending pilgrims, 105 Ulamah (clerics), 25 Hajj Guides and 52 members of staff of the Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board were vaccinated during the exercise.
While affirming that not all the State’s intending pilgrims were present for the weekend vaccination exercise, Elegushi urged those who were unavoidably absent to ensure that they get themselves vaccinated in any of the accredited centres across the State without further delay.
The Commissioner urged them to immediately take the vaccine in order to meet up with the average of 12 weeks interval required for every intending pilgrim to take the two doses of the vaccine before departing for the Hajj exercise.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Mrs. Elizabeth Adebunmi Adekanye, who was at the venue to monitor the exercise and ensure strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols, said the two-day exercise was hitch-free.
She also advised those that had gotten the vaccine outside the Board’s arrangements to endeavour to bring their certificates to the Board for necessary documentation.
On his part, the Executive Secretary, Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mr. Rahman Ishola, expressed delight at the impressive turnout of the intending pilgrims for the vaccination despite the short notice.
Reacting to allegations from some quarters that the vaccination fee was included in the Hajj fare, the Executive Secretary debunked the claim as untrue, unfounded and blatant falsehood.
Ishola pointed out that the N1.3 million Hajj fare had been fixed before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the whole world in Y2020, stressing that the State Government did not include any vaccination fee in the fare for Hajj 2021 exercise, which still stands at N1.3 million.
The Executive Secretary reiterated that the vaccination was given free of charge to every intending pilgrims who attended the exercise, noting that during the 2019 Hajj exercise, the State government refunded N100,000 each to the pilgrims out of the N1.4 million initially charged.
He said the refund was done to acknowledge the fact that the State Government is not in the business to cheat or make unwarranted profit from any of her citizens but to serve them diligently and selflessly.
Ishola, therefore, appealed to peddlers of fake news to desist from the act in order not to disparage the enviable image the State has built over the years on Hajj operations.
He also commended officials of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency for a job well done as well as the intending pilgrims for conducting themselves in a peaceful and orderly manner throughout the exercise.