Nigerian pastor falsely claims Covid-19 jabs are 'death warrants' and mandatory in the country

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Nigerian preacher David Oyedepo claimed during a church service that Covid-19 vaccines are effectively death warrants, stating that the jabs were not tested before they were distributed globally. He also told followers that the shots are mandatory in Nigeria. These claims are false; Covid-19 vaccines are recommended in Nigeria, but not obligatory, while the national agency in charge of managing the disease has reported no deaths linked to vaccinations since their rollout began in March 2021. The Covid-19 vaccines endorsed by the World Health Organization have undergone rigorous testing for emergency use approval. 

Oyedepo made the claims while speaking at the church’s 40th anniversary celebration service on May 9, 2020, telling tens of thousands of his followers at the Faith Tabernacle in southwestern Nigeria that the Covid-19 vaccines are “untested and deadly”.

In a 10-hour long livestream, which has now been viewed more than 144,000 times, Oyedepo made most of his comments about Covid-19 vaccines six hours into the online broadcast.

A screenshot taken on May 11, 2021 of a video showing Nigerian preacher David Oyedepo during a service that lasted 10 hours in which he made false claims about Covid-19 vaccines

AFP Fact Check reviewed his claims to see what checks out.

Vaccines are mandatory in Nigeria? 

Oyedepo claimed that in some parts of the country, Covid-19 vaccines are mandatory, an act he deemed “immoral”. 

“No man or authority under heaven has any right to force you to take a vaccine. It’s immoral. One state just withdrew that last week, that you take it if you desire,” he said. 

However, Covid-19 vaccines are not compulsory in Nigeria, although the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, in charge of managing the country’s response to the disease, recommends that “every eligible person 18 or older be vaccinated”, especially health workers. 

While vaccination for Covid-19 is optional, the ministry of sports and the Edo state government in southern Nigeria made it compulsory for all athletes and officials participating in the National Sports Festival, held from April 2 to April 15, 2021. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends voluntary vaccination, especially in countries like Nigeria where there is insufficient supply of vaccines.

Nigeria has only received 3.94 million doses of vaccines so far, for a population of more than 200 million. In its April 2021 policy briefing on Covid-19 and mandatory vaccination, the WHO said “governments and/or institutional policy-makers should use arguments to encourage voluntary vaccination against Covid-19 before contemplating mandatory vaccination”.

Covid-19 vaccines untested?

Oyedepo, while speaking during the service about a book he recently wrote on “healing”, warned against the “untested Covid-19 vaccine”.

“Let me warn you against this vaccine that they carry around. I’m not a medical doctor but I do read. I read a few things. It has not been tested ...” he said, further claiming that he was thanked by an unnamed WHO official “for exposing this thing”.

The WHO denied the claim, stating that the organisation is unaware of any staff member purported to have praised Oyedepo. 

“We are not aware of the unnamed WHO staff member allegedly quoted in this piece,” a WHO spokesperson told AFP Fact Check.

“All Covid-19 vaccines with WHO Emergency Use Listing are deemed to be safe and effective. Along with COVID-19 vaccines, mask wearing, regular hand-cleaning and safe social distancing, particularly at larger gatherings, will also save lives and protect people from the virus.”

The various Covid-19 vaccines endorsed by WHO have undergone rigorous testing for emergency use approval. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are at least four testing phases that vaccines typically go through before approval is granted by them. For emergency use, this occurs after the third step.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Nigeria also gave emergency use approval for the AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Nigeria back in February 2021. The WHO keeps a record of all Covid-19 vaccines and their testing/trial processes. The details can be found here

Vaccines are a death warrant?

Oyedepo, who built the largest church auditorium in Africa and runs a prestigious university, suggested that Covid-19 vaccines are deadly and by taking them, people were “lining up for a death warrant”. 

Nevertheless, he told his congregants, “if you choose to, go ahead, but I am telling you, no mortal man has the moral right to force you to take a medication. You want it, go for it, but I’m telling you, behind the scene is an evil scheming”.

Contrary to Oyedepo’s claims, Covid-19 vaccines do not equate to “a death warrant”. 

“Out of over a million persons given the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria, 8,439 persons have suffered mild adverse events following immunisation (AEFI), and 52 persons moderate to severe adverse events on receiving the jab,” Faisal Shuaib, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, said in April

The NPHCDA has continuously put out information on Nigeria’s vaccination progress and has not reported any vaccine-related deaths so far. As of May 11, 2021, 1,713,306 people had been vaccinated in Nigeria.

AFP has previously debunked similar claims about Covid-19 vaccinations and their reported side effects (here and here).