From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
In order to thwart vaccine hesitancy which is reported to be increasing worldwide, President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo will on Saturday receive the COVID-19 vaccine publicly.
But their taking the vaccine publicly will be subject to the clearance by the National Agency for Food Drugs and Administration Control (NAFDAC), which is expected Thursday evening or Friday morning.
This is even as the federal government has declared that states that are yet to meet the conditions will not receive the COVID vaccines.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this at the second edition of State House weekly briefing, which focused on Nigeria’s Response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the last one year, and especially the National Vaccination Response.
Shuaib said the number one and two citizens will receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after some frontline health workers are vaccinated on Friday.
He also said the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, will also receive his first dose of the vaccine on the same day.
While said the actual time for the inoculation of the two leaders would be communicated soon, he hinted that members of the Federal Executive Council would be vaccinated on Monday.
Shuaib said: ‘After we are able to get our strategic leaders to publicly demonstrate that these vaccines are safe, the plan is to now go to the state level to start the launch at the treatment centres of the states and also get strategic leaders such as governors to publicly take the vaccines.
‘By the time all of these happen, we will have finished all of the necessary preparations, we will have created a dashboard that will track very carefully the status of the preparedness of the states.
‘We will not be sending vaccines to the states that have not fulfilled all of the criteria that will ensure that if the vaccines get to the states, they are going to be safe.
‘For example, we have communicated to the states that they have to wrap up their security around their cold stors because these are very valuable vaccines and we do not want a situation where vaccines are taken to the states and criminal elements take advantage to vandalise these cold stores.
‘We are also aware that during the #EndSARS vandalisation, there were some cold stores that actually suffered. I know that the state governors are trying to fix those but we have to verify that those are ready to receive our vaccines.
‘We are working with the sub-national level; we are in conversation with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to see how Nigerians can rapidly get their vaccines. It is very critical that we roll out rapidly so that we can cut into any kind of mutation that can lead to the development of resistance against our vaccines.’
The NPHCDA boss also enjoined Nigerians who wish to receive the vaccines to register on the website of the agency
This is even as the Director-General, of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu, has warned that as much as vaccines provide some very important light, the response of – testing, surveillance, protecting health workers, investing in national health security, driving risk communications, etc. has to continue.
He noted that Thursday made it exactly a year and five days since COVID-19 was identified in the country.
According to him, Nigeria has since maintained a robust response to the pandemic and called for the sustenance of critical investment to the health sector to consolidate on the gains achieved in the last one year.
Director General of National Agency for Food Drugs and Administration Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said since the arrival of the vaccine to the country on Tuesday, the agency has been carrying out series of checks on the efficacy of the vaccine.
She said that the agency and the NPHCDA is working closely to ensure smooth roll out of the vaccination on Friday.
She also warned that falsified COVID-19 vaccines are already in the global market.
She said: ‘That’s why NAFDAC is focusing on track-and-trace, to ensure no infiltration of substandard vaccines in supply chain. Traceability is very important; we can trace the vaccines from airport to the patient.’
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, warned thar as a country, Nigeria has been lucky so far but, ‘we must not stretch our luck. We must continue with our non-pharmaceutical measures.
‘We must look at vaccine as a game changer, but make no mistake that it’s a replacement for everything else. It is an additional strategy. Vaccines are an addition to the existing Response, not a Replacement.”
He said the Federal Government plans to provide 10-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in every state of the Federation, as part of strategies to provide critical response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Ehanire assured that the focus on COVID-19 prevention and treatment would not wipe out the maintenance of normal routine vaccination.
The minister also assured that Nigeria is not just relying on charity for the supply of vaccines but has open an account with Afreximbank, from where 370 million doses of vaccines for the continent would be sent and Nigeria expecting to get between 80 and 85 million doses.
He said: ‘Regarding charity, we are not just depending on charity. Right from the time the idea of vaccine production came up, the World Health Organisation, GAVI, – the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, who have been normally supporting Nigeria, in financing routine vaccines.
‘They are specialists in vaccines, which are procured by UNICEF for us, came together World Health Organisation and an organisation called CEPI – Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, to say, look, this is a vaccine that’s new, we don’t know the cost, we don’t know the financial situation of certain countries, let’s set up an organisation to get vaccines and not only vaccines, but also diagnostic kits and so on, to certain countries that may not have easy access to get what you call equitable access. Because those countries that are rich and powerful, and especially those countries where the vaccines are manufactured, will give themaelves priority. So, therefore, if we can gather resources and make substantial bulk orders, in fact, not only that, if we support certain vaccine developers to complete their trials, by paying for some of their trials, we can have priority to get the vaccines first and give to the countries that we normally support.
‘GAVI has been supporting us normally and supporting many countries. So, this is just an extension of the support that they normally give and that support they limited to 20% of population. So, that support is to 92 countries, low and middle income countries.
‘There are 98 other countries that belong to this facility, which has self-financing countries, they have the money to pay, they will pay more than they need, but they have small orders and small orders may not necessarily make an impact on the producer. So they join this facility too. Take a country like Norway with relatively small population, they compete so they add donation and pay for themselves instead of asking for a small order, so you have a bulk order.
‘So that that’s where it comes from that you have a decent number of 190 countries that work together, but for us, it is the 92 who received this special support.
‘Now, we are looking to immunise 70% in order to have what is known as herd immunity and the African Union, the African Centre for diysease Control recognise that immediately and went to the president of the the African Union and said we must set up something to support ourselves as a country because if every country goes to order, Gambia goes, Guinea Bissau says I want this, you have a lot of confusion, they may not listen to you because your order is too small.
‘So, therefore, if we all come together, as an African country, we can make order. So 52 countries in Africa came together. Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles and Gabon said, don’t worry, we can make our own arrangements. Out of 55, 52 came together and joined in the AVATT – Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, to make a bulk order.
‘And the first bulk order they made was for 270 million doses, which immediately will impress any manufacturer. So the manufacturers are impressed and they are ready to produce that vaccine with as much priority as possible. Now, in order that we are not looking for money here and there, the Afreximbank said, we shall bankroll it, and then you pay us back so that you are not scrambling looking for money, but those who have money immediately can pay. If you don’t have immediately you can pay over five, seven years. So that’s a continental agreement and the purpose of it is that you also want your neighbours to be free.
‘If we (Nigerians) are fully well vaccinated, Benin Republic, Togo, Niger are not, we are still not quite safe because there’s free movement among all these countries, so it’s in our interest to also see that all these countries are on the same page.
‘That’s why the West Africa Health Organisation is also pursuing the same initiative as the African Union and for that we are paying, we have opened an account with Afreximbank, the headquarter of Afreximbank is in Cairo and the account signatories are from both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance.
‘At this point, any organisation that wants to support can pay into that account. We have already spoken with the private sector that if you want to support us, even if you’re looking for vaccines, instead of you going to purchase your own from sources that are not very clear, it can be guaranteed through this account.
‘The 270 million doses we had before has been increased last week by another 300 million. So we have 570 million doses potentially, on that account of AVATT and that’s very good, it will probably grow even beyond that and they are offering four types of vaccines. They are offering Sputnik, of they are offering Johnson and Johnson they are offering AstraZeneca they are offering Pfizer Biontech. So you can even choose which one you want, what quantity you want, but normally they allocate according to population, measure your population, this is yours, they have, in fact originally allocated 41 million doses to us.
‘But with the new additional 300 million, it can be up to 80, 85 million doses and you can select the mix that you want, and then you start paying into that account. So we are going to pay into that account, so we are not depending on charity, we are depending on an arrangement that is existing for low and medium income countries and our own procurement capacity to feel up to the level of want.’
Nigeria received its first batch of about four doses of AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday.
Over two million Nigerians have already registered to be vaccinated.