As fear of COVID-19 death heightens, over 2.3 million Nigerians have registered for vaccination barely 24 hours after the arrival of four million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.
The figure was released yesterday by the Federal Government through the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, who dispelled fears that people might not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I can tell you that there is a lot of excitement about the vaccine arrival. I know some people have their concerns and we are trying, but I want to give you an example of the enthusiasm that Nigerians are showing around wanting to take these vaccines. Around midday on Monday when we launched the e-registration platform, in less than 24 hours, we already had up to 2.3m Nigerians who had registered. And that number continues to increase,” Shuaib said during an interview on a live television programme.
Meanwhile, a statement last night said the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) will hold an emergency virtual meeting today to discuss the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution in the country.
“The meeting commences at 5pm according to the invitation to governors issued this evening by the Director General of the Forum Mr Asishana B Okauru. Governors are to begin to join at 4pm.”
The PTF on COVID-19 said Nigerians under the age of 18 years would not receive the vaccines.
Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, said the Federal Government planned to cover 70 per cent of Nigerians within two years.
He warned that private organisations were not permitted to procure, distribute and administer the coronavirus vaccines.
NPHCDA explained that the agency had put plans in place for the rollout of the vaccine and that it was only waiting for the approval of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
“So, we are waiting on NAFDAC. We feel that they are going to do all of the checks that are necessary and once they give us the green light, we will be ready to roll out the vaccines.”
He also dismissed rumours that the vaccines have been allotted to the high and mighty in the society, maintaining that frontline health workers and those exposed to the virus would be given priority in the administration of the jabs.
“I will tell you categorically that we have not allotted these vaccines to the rich people or to the people in the urban areas, absolutely not. Mr President has been very clear.”
According to him, “On Friday, we are going to be launching the vaccines, we are going to be rolling them out at the treatment centres at the national hospital. Our priority will be the health workers that are frontline. We are going to be giving these vaccines to first responders.”
Aside from health workers, he noted that some leaders will be vaccinated. This, he said, would convince more Nigerians to take the shots.
“We are going to be looking at those strategic leaders like Mr. President and the Vice-President, those people who will also want to take the vaccines publicly so that they can motivate the followers to take the vaccines, to convince them that the vaccines are very safe.”
While the arrival of the first batch of vaccines was a major boost in Nigeria’s fight against the pandemic, Dr. Shuaib said there was still much work to be done.
“So, we take that very seriously and this is why we are going to be working very hard,” he added. “Yes, the vaccines are here, but there is even harder work that needs to go on to make sure that we deliver the vaccines into the arms of Nigerians in a way that is respectful, in a way that is stress-free”, he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo are expected to be vaccinated publicly, with the first batch of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, by weekend.
Shuaib said Secretary to the Government of the Federation and chairman of the PTF on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, would liaise with other key strategic persons to fix the date for the public vaccination.