From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Despite the suspension of the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by some countries due to safety concerns, Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has assured Nigerians that lives will not be endangered by its use.
The Executive Secretary of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, gave the assurance at a media briefing Monday, where he reiterated that the vaccine has been approved for emergency use by both the World Health Organization (WTO) and the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration (NAFDAC).
He assured that the low-cost of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine does not make it inferior.
‘We are working closely with NAFDAC to monitor any unusual adverse reaction to the vaccine,’ he said.
‘In addition to other measures that we have outlined for the vaccine to roll out, NAFDAC has introduced a safety app for people to download and install on their phones.
‘I want to assure Nigerians that the federal government through the PTF on COVID-19 is fully committed to a safe and successful COVID-19 vaccination in the country.
‘No safety and efficacy standards have been compromised in the decision of the government to introduce the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
‘The vaccine was approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization and was tested and certified as safe and effective for use in Nigeria by NAFDAC
‘It is important to note that none of the approved brands of COVID vaccines is inferior. Understandably, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine relatively cost less than the other available brands of COVID-19 vaccines.
‘However, this is not because it is inferior. It is because AstraZeneca which partners with Oxford to produce the vaccine decided and announced that they would not be making a profit during this pandemic.
‘So, from a humanitarian point of view, they decided that they will sell at their cost price. This is the reason for the relatively low cost of AstraZeneca. It not because it is inferior in any way.
‘As you well know, the AstraZeneca vaccine is being used in many parts of the world. Even after the roll-out suspension by some European countries over certain concerns raised, the World Health Organization and its vaccine advisory committee have advised that there is no reason to stop using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
‘Similarly, the UK regulators have also determined that evidence does not suggest that the vaccine causes blood clots,’ the NPHCDA head said.
Dr Shuaib also said that 8,000 persons have been vaccinated so far in 35 states and the FCT.
He added that Kogi State was yet to receive the vaccine because its cold chains for the preservation of the vaccines is under repair.
On concerns raised because of the registration process, the NPHCDA boss said anyone who was qualified and could not register should head to the vaccination centre to be registered manually.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has again called out cases of fake COVID-19 test results presented by travellers at airports and announced that it has developed a verification tool to confirm results which will be deployed in a few days.
NCDC Director-General Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu warned that any result received outside the platform would be considered illegal and defaulters may be prevented from travelling and handed over to security forces for further action.
‘It’s really unfortunate because we have continued to receive report nearly every day from airport officials about fake results either coming out of private people’s printers at home or various laboratories across the country,’ he said.
‘Last week, we piloted this platform and we are now confident that we can verify every single result out of a private laboratory authorised to test in Nigeria.’
The NCDC boss stressed that every airline, embassy and any foreign country could verify COVID-19 test result out of Nigeria, noting that it would provide safety and confidence for the aviation industry to keep traffic going.
He appealed to Nigerians travelling out of the country to confirm the authenticity of their results before travelling.
Dr Ihekweazu announced that more laboratories were underway in the country as part of efforts to strengthen the country’s health security.