Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Nigeria Centre for Disease and Control (NCDC), has said that it is working to ensure that Nigerians have access to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), vaccines when available.
This is even as it has disclosed that 11,000 contacts of COVID-19 patients are currently being traced, assuring, “We will never stop contact tracing.”
NCDC DG, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made the disclosure at Monday’s briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic.
The NCDC boss, said that the centre was working with the global community to ensure this access.
According to him, available data on research and development of a vaccine against COVID-19 by the global scientific community shows a possible vaccine availability by the fourth quarter of 2020.
Ihekweazu, while noting that a vaccine was the best weapon in taming the virus, however stressed that equitable access was key.
He added that the center was working together with other colleagues around the continent through the Africa Center for a Disease Control (CDC), to start advocating for some of the trials to be done on the continent with African institutions in the short term.
“To do this, we have to build capacity, gather sufficient data and include African institutions in these efforts. Secondly we have to start preparing Nigerian population for vaccine delivery when it becomes available”, he explained.
“Access is a very key issue when it comes to vaccines, that a vaccine is developed does not necessarily translate that it will be available to those that need it the most.
“So, through the ACT accelerator, WHO is working with GAVI to ensure that vaccines are available to countries regardless of their ability to pay. It’s a work in progress and we are all working with Africa CDC and GAVI to ensure that when a vaccine becomes available, Nigeria’s can have access to it”, he added.
Ihekweazu also said it was important to involve the private sector and accademia in vaccination manufacturing.
He said the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) would lead the distribution, and planning.
The DG also pointed out that campaign to enlighten Nigerians on the benefit of the vaccine was important. This, according to him was because a small part of population resist vaccine for different reasons.
“So, the time to start the risk communication about the benefits of the vaccine is now.
“As soon as vaccine becomes available, it’s our responsibility collectively in preparing Nigerians for the implementation of the vaccination campaign for whatever form they take. So, it’s important that we start thinking about this”, he said.
Ihekweazu noted that there had been a constant increase in number of cases, despite several interventions COVID-19 and even countries thought to have the virus under control were witnessing increase in cases.
He stressed that a vaccine was the biggest weapon to get the virus under control, and by far the most important medical tool known in history
“Vaccine development normally takes 10-20 years, but we’ve made incredible development in the last six months”, he said.
He noted that there were about 226 vaccine candidates at different stages of development and so far, early data had shown that it worked well on volunteer, but nothing was known effective it was in large population.
Meanwhile, National Coordinator, PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu said the country cannot risk another shut down or more lives being lost.
He said the PTF will appeal to religious centres and State Governments to take precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19.