From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has explained why it asked all the states administering the COVID-19 vaccine to stop the exercise the moment they use half of the doses allocated to them.
Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, said at Tuesday’s media briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, that the directive became necessary since the country is not sure when next the second batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive the country.
He said it in order for those who have received their first jab to be able to complete their vaccination.
The Minister who was responding to the question if the directive to states to vaccinate half of the doses deployed was true said: “That is true. We believe that in a situation where, we still cannot specifically determine when the next batch of AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive, then I think wisdom on dictates that, it’s better for us to vaccinate people fully. And so that we can say that we have a pool of citizens that have been fully vaccinated, since this vaccination comes in two doses.
“So that’s what gave rise to that directive, rather than just going ahead with just single dose when the full dose should be two doses of the same. So we felt that it was proper for us in the circumstance to ensure that those who have been vaccinated have been fully vaccinated. I mean, by the time we fully utilise doses available, thank you very much.”
Meanwhile, the Director General of Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has assured that the center was investing the reported blood clotting in some individuals that have taken the first jab of AstraZeneca vaccine.
He said: “There’s been ongoing investigations that we’ve all be following on the suspected link between the AstraZeneca vaccines to certain rear experience of blood clotting in individuals in Europe. Those investigations are still ongoing, right. Not all European countries are adopting the vaccines for their populations.
“In Nigeria with every vaccine, we have a parallel system to measure and to monitor any side effects. That is ongoing and is being managed by the National Agency for Food Drugs (NAFDEC) in collaboration with National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and we will continue to monitor patients in Nigeria. You know, every demographic is different, the demographic in taking vaccines in every country is different, the interaction between different drugs people are taking. So there are many circumstances that need to be fully evaluated, we will look at the data ourselves here in Nigeria and, I will take action as needed.
“I think the critical thing to always remember, when you talk about medicines, vaccines and side effects is, never as simple as it might look, they always have to weigh the risk versus the benefits. And once you do that, it becomes immediately obvious that the benefits of these vaccines by far outweigh small risks in individuals. The argument against that is always if one person is at risk, the risk in that person is 100%, whether the rest of the population gets it or not, which is true. So which is why we’re obliged to investigate every case that we see and do the best that we can to understand what’s going on.
“So I think what Nigerians can do is to rest assured that as we increase the scale of the vaccination programme, we are also monitored very carefully not only that, but other potential side effects cannot contact in order to make the best decisions for people.
“So I think for now, we can be sure that we have an effective vaccination programme going on. And we’re very responsive to the concerns of Nigerians, I will respond to them as appropriate.”
Also,, ED/CEO NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, has clarified that the AstraZeneca vaccines and Johnson and Johnson vaccine cannot be taken by the same individual.
He was responding to a question on if Johnson and Johnson vaccine can be taken in a case where the second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine is not available.
He said: “I mean, that is a no right. You cannot take the AstraZeneca on your left and Johnson and Johnson on the right. Yeah, so it has to be both doses of AstraZeneca and a single shot of the Johnson and Johnson.
On the reported side effects of the AstraZeneca, he said: “I think it we have said on multiple locations here, that there are side effects of these vaccines, side effects of vaccines are not unique to the COVID-19 vaccine. And it is not uncommon for people who take the vaccine to experience mild side effects. Once they experience these side effects, the correct thing to do is to report the side effects to the health facility where you got the vaccine. There’s also the med safety app that you can download on your phone and report these side effects. The data goes directly to NAFDEC , and we’re following up on these side effects. Anywhere there’s a serious side effect this is investigated to try and establish any causal link between the vaccine and whatever symptoms or sign the client has shown.
“So one thing that we continue to tell vaccinators is that even before people take the vaccines, they should be educated on the potential side effects. For those of you who have kids, when you take your kids to the health facility for vaccination, I’m sure you’re familiar with the fact that on that day, the kids usually have a mild fever, they might not be able to raise that limb. You know, are they usually very irritable. These are evidences that the vaccine is actually working. So there is an immune response to the vaccine that has been introduced into the body.”
Chairman of PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, has said civil servants in Grade Level 12 and below will continue to work from home because there are certain red flags that need to be interrogated further.
“There are certain interrogations we want to investigate further because there are few red signals that we must deal with before we can communicate to Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, as to when is the appropriate time for them to return. So, we are still drilling the issue within the next couple of weeks when we come to the conclusion of the safety of a full blown reopening of government offices.
“Before we take a decision as to when they will return to work, we will have clarity as to where we are in terms of control, vaccinations so that we do not blow the level of successes that we have achieved.”