By Omeiza Ajayi
The Federal Government said yesterday it has placed an order for 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, regretting that the 100, 000 doses it was earlier scheduled to receive this month is no longer feasible.
Explaining that the 100,000 doses would now be received next month, government also announced the extension of the Phase Three of the Eased Lockdown by one month.
At a media interface in Abuja, Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Boss Mustapha, also added that Nigerian Scientists have been sequencing the variants of the COVID-19 virus.
According to him, there have been reports of cases with the B117 variant strain, first reported in the United Kingdom UK, found in Nigeria. “Three of these were in travelers out of Nigeria and one in a resident”, he stated.
Mustapha said in the last one week, Nigeria conducted 58, 974 tests and recorded 11, 179 cases with 62 deaths.
He said the management of cases was gradually improving with the availability of medical oxygen, even as he said government was also fast tracking the rehabilitation of existing plants and construction of new ones as approved by the President.
The SGF said; “The PTF is improving on the International Travel Portal to minimize the challenges passengers keep encountering.
“Similarly, it is reviewing the guidelines on the implementation of phase three of the eased lockdown which is due to expire today (Monday). In view of the fact that our numbers are not abating, all extant measures prescribed in these guidelines are (subject to some modifications) extended by a period of one month with effect from Tuesday 26th January, 2020”..
According to him, the effort to access and deploy vaccines is progressing and as already announced by COVAX, the initial 100,000 doses Nigeria is expecting will now arrive in the early weeks of February. “We wish to assure all Nigerians that the vaccines will be safe and effective when eventually it is deployed. We enjoin everyone to join in the campaign to eliminate vaccine hesitance.
“I have to however advise all Nigerians that the only source of vaccines that is safe and effective in Nigeria is through the channels of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). Please do not patronize any one hawking or marketing vaccines”, the SGF warned. Mustapha further stated that Nigeria was currently working with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the deportation of 600 Nigerians, explaining that the deportees were expected to arrive in two batches on the 28th and 29th January, 2021.
10 million doses
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire on his part said Nigeria is exploring all options to secure safe and efficacious vaccines to meet her target of covering at least 70 per cent of her population within two years.
“With an eye on value-for-money, we are negotiating with many parties and planning for flawless execution using recent experience from polio eradication, in the face of a global scramble for vaccines.
“Apart from the 100,000 doses allocated as first wave to Nigeria by the COVAX facility, we also placed order for 10 million doses through the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) of the Africa Union Commission, which has secured 270 million doses, with the $2billion backing by Africa Exim Bank for a “whole-of-Africa” approach of the Chairman of the African Union, President Ramaphosa of South Afica. The vaccine is expected to be rolled out as from late March or April. The quantity we order from AVATT will depend on our capacity to dispense them to avoid wastage as we have seen in some countries where vaccine management became a problem.
“The Federal Ministry of Health organized a National Covid-19 Vaccine Conference to prepare a roadmap for Nigeria’s access to Covid-19 vaccine and review our vaccination strategy. Reports and updates were received from NPHCDA, the agency responsible for vaccine administration, NAFDAC responsible for medicine regulation and also from our research institutions. Nigeria has an indigenous vaccine candidate, which will require considerable investment to get through trials. We shall seek sponsorship to take the initiative further. The vaccine conference also reviewed the value chain from acquisition, logistics of storage, distribution and dispensing to try to zero in on preferred vaccines”, said Ehanire.
Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib said Nigeria was set to receive the first batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine by February 2021.
“Information reaching us from the COVAX facility is that due to manufacturing and supply issues being encountered, the expected date of arrival of the first 100,000 doses of the mRNA vaccine will now be in February and not in January, as earlier communicated.
” In the spirit of transparency, we would like you to join us at the airport to receive the vaccines when the time comes.
“Let me reiterate the fact that at the National Strategic Cold Store (NSCS), we have three (3) Ultra-Cold Chain (UCC) freezers, which have the capacity to store over 400,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccines at a temperature of -60 to -80 degrees centigrade. We also have Walk in freezer rooms that can store vaccines at -25 to -15 degree centigrade.
“The mRNA vaccines can be stored at +2 to +8 degree centigrade at the health facility level for 5 days. And through our routine immunization system, we have supported the states in the past with Solar Direct Drive (SDD) cold chain equipment. By the end of 2021, all the political wards in Nigeria will have one functional cold chain equipment per ward to ensure potency of the vaccine, even if there is no electricity supply. We have enough storage capacity at national, zonal, state, LGA, ward and health facility levels. Gentlemen of the Press, this is enough reason for you to be assured of our preparedness to store the vaccine.”
“It is important to underscore the fact that the vaccines we are expecting are the same mRNA vaccines being used in the USA, UK, Israel, France, Germany and most of European countries. The Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccines are universally the same and the mRNA vaccine was the first to receive Emergency Use Authorization by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is reported to have 95% efficacy. Moreover, it is made accessible globally through the COVAX facility. It is for the reason of availability, coupled with its 95% efficacy rate that it is the first batch of vaccines that Nigeria will access through the COVAX facility. As I have said over and over again, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that we use only vaccines approved by WHO, tested and certified by NAFDAC in Nigeria. There is therefore no vaccine that is specifically produced for Nigeria or Africa. So the talk of a vaccine for Africa only is again one of the misinformation out there. Please do not amplify this.
“Nigeria will be accessing millions of doses of the recommended COVID-19 vaccines through this channel by April 2021. We are pleased to confirm that The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) has provisionally secured 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the critical period from April – December 2021, which will be distributed through the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP).
“It is pertinent to state that the priority given to healthcare workers in the first 2 phases of our COVID-19 introduction plan was borne out of the need to optimally protect our health workforce. The health workers are at the most risk of exposure, making them highly susceptible to COVID-19 infection, which they could unknowingly spread to their patients. As you know, even infected persons without symptoms are also spreading the virus. Moreover, the daily reports of increasing number of health workers being infected in the line of duty with fatalities is highly disturbing. This is further depleting our grossly inadequate human resource for health. Our prioritization of health workers is therefore to protect them, so that they can safely care for the rest of us”, Shuaib added.