From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Pandemic, on Monday, confirmed that the National Agency for Food Drugs and Administration Control (NAFDAC) has received some vaccines and is currently evaluating them ahead of its administration into Nigeria.
The task force declared that any vaccine not approved by the agency will not be used on Nigerians.
Health Minister Dr Osagie Ehanire made this disclosure on Monday at the task force national media briefing in Abuja.
‘The National Agency For Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has received dossiers for Sputnik V vaccine of Russia, Covishield or AstraZeneca manufactured under license by Serum Institute of India, Covaxin by Bharat vaccines of India and the Sinopharm Vaccine of China, for evaluation and validation for use in Nigeria. Some of them are nearly ready for results,’ the minister said at the briefing.
He said as part of plans to roll out of COVID-19 vaccines when they arrive, the Vaccine Coordination Committee, an Interministerial, multisectoral committee, has been inaugurated to address diverse issues peculiar to COVID-19 vaccine acquisition by Nigeria.
‘Their function is to advice on coordinating access to acquisition and distribution of vaccines when available, and on our immunization strategy.’
Ehanire, added that ‘the Ministry of Health also engaged the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), who informed that of the free allocation of 1.4 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, of which 500,000 doses are expected by the end of this month, courtesy of MTN donation of seven million doses to Africa. The balance of 900,000 doses for Nigeria is expected by the end of March 2021. Other sources of vaccines are under negotiation.”
The minister said: ‘It is important to stress that all COVID-19 vaccines carry a certain amount of risk and any vaccines not approved by the Federal Ministry of Health through its Agencies cannot be used in Nigeria. The government will not be responsible for the safety or efficacy of vaccines given outside the framework of the Government. All the needs of Nigeria have been carefully calculated by NPHCDA and it is possible to accommodate all interests in the framework.
‘I received a message from His Excellency the High Commissioner of India, giving 100,000 AstraZeneca or covishield vaccine doses, also by the Serum Institute of India, as a gift of the Government of India to Nigeria. These gestures of goodwill and partnership are appreciated by the people of Nigeria.
‘With regard to the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, AVATT, Nigeria this morning completed her account opening, signed by two officials each, of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance, Budget & National Planning, at Afrexim Bank as a requirement for access to vaccines on that platform, which will give Nigeria access to a much larger portfolio and variety of vaccines. Among the vaccines are the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine and as much of the Pfizer mRNA vaccines as we can manage. “The COVID-19 Vaccine Coordinating Committee and NPHCDA’s strategy for vaccine delivery will advise the mix of vaccines that Nigeria will acquire.’
Following Guinean health authorities declaration of an outbreak of Ebola in a rural community in the south of the country, with at least seven people infected, three of whom died, the minister said the country will jointly work with World Health Organization (WHO) and West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), to check the spread.
‘The Federal Ministry of Health constantly monitors diseases of public health concern around the world and is observing the Ebola disease outbreak in Guinea Conakry with concern. Nigeria’s Port Health Services have been put on alert on land, sea and Air borders and all major hospitals have also been put on notice to alert health workers to have a keen index of suspicion and to check patient travel history, especially at Outpatient departments, and report concerns to infectious disease focal persons and the State epidemiologists without hesitation. Stricter infection prevention and control measures, including Personal Protective measures, must be taken immediately there is reason to suspect.
‘Nigeria is willing to send experienced volunteers from our Centres of Excellence on Viral haemorrhagic fever, to support WHO measures to contain Ebola resurgence in our West African subregion. It is important to protect the subregion from the catastrophic burden of dealing with two severe diseases of public health concern.
‘We shall work with West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) and WHO on strategies to bring this outbreak under control and shall provide regular updates on preparedness, containment and response measures in due course.
‘In view of these developments, I shall renew my call on all Nigerians first to limit any travel abroad only to very essential trips, and to altogether avoid high burden countries and countries with particularly deadly disease outbreaks for now, so as not to pick up such diseases or become a vehicle for their importation to our country.
‘I also urge continued adherence to public health and all other non-pharmaceutical measures such as physical distancing, regular hand washing, use of hand sanitisers, observance of respiratory hygiene, avoiding crowded places and above all, wearing appropriate face masks that also cover the noses,’ Ehanire said.