Kogi State began vaccination against COVID-19 on Wednesday in Lokoja.
First set of recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines were health workers and frontline essential non-health workers.
The state took delivery of 16, 900 doses of the vaccine on Monday.
Commissioner for Health, Dr. Saka Audu, flagged-off the exercise just as Dr. Abubakar Yakubu, Executive Director, Kogi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (KSPHCDA), was the first person to take the jab.
He was followed by the Chief Medical Director of Kogi Hospital Management Board, Dr Usman Zakari, and some other medical officers.
Some other dignitaries who received the vaccines were CAN Chairman in Kogi, Bishop John Ibenu and Chairman of Kogi chapter of Jamaatul Nasir Islamiyyah (JNI), Amb. Usman Bello.
Chairman of Kogi branch of the Nigeria Medical Association, Dr. Omakoji Oyiguh and some journalists also took the jab.
In his remarks, Dr. Audu called on Kogi residents to volunteer to take the vaccine, saying nobody would be deprived or forced to receive it.
“I want to clarify that nobody is exempted or will be deprived from this exercise; also nobody will be forced to take it,’’ Audu said.
The commissioner explained Governor Yahaya Bello’s initial cynicism about the virus and the vaccine when he said it was about “a leader who does not want to deprive his people of an intervention that may be potentially beneficial to the people.
“At the same time, the governor wanted to avoid exposing his people to a new intervention that may be potentially harmful to the people.”
He commended the governor for ensuring that the vaccine was eventually deployed in Kogi and said the ministry had taken delivery of 16, 900 out of the total of 33, 000 doses designated for the state.
He said the remaining 16, 100 doses of the vaccines would be deployed in a fortnight.
In his remarks, Dr Yakubu, of KSPHCDA, said the vaccine had passed through series of laboratory tests by the WHO, NAFDAC and other relevant agencies.
“The vaccine is virile and safe for the people of the state,’’ he said.
He urged Kogi residents to dismiss claims in some quarters that the vaccine was unsafe.
Bishop Ibenu, in his remarks, commended Kogi government for its pragmatic approach in managing the COVID-19 pandemic from the onset.
He assured Kogi residents that CAN would be the number one organisation to stand against anything that could harm anyone.
He stressed that it was against international standard and health practice to introduce anything that would be harmful to humanity.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe; there is no trick in it; please let us take it to boost our health immunity against the virus,” Ibenu said.
On his part, the JNI chairman, Ambasaador Bello, appealed to Kogi people not to be deceived against the genuineness of the vaccine.
He assured that JNI would intensify efforts at sensitising Kogi residents to take the vaccine.
Representatives of the WHO, the National Public Healthcare Development Agency, People Living with Disabilities and the NMA also spoke at the flag-ff.
Dr. Audu, also at the occasion, inaugurated a team of selected scientists to conduct research on COVID-19 and investigate any adverse effect of the vaccine.
The team would also research into the scientific explanation behind the relative sparing of Kogi by the COVID-19, the health commissioner said.