Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
In its bid to support local production of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country, the federal government said, it has approved the release of N10 billion to explore the option of local production.
Speaking at the media briefing of the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19, in Abuja, the minister of health Dr Osagie Ehanire, disclosed that the country is making arrangements to ensure improved access to the vaccine when available.
He explained that the first consignment of vaccine doses will arrive within weeks, and will cover 20 percent of the population, but added that there are plans to increase the figure to cover 50 percent.
“While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production in collaboration with recognized institutions, we are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in country”, Dr Ehanire said.
With Nigeria currently expecting 100,000 doses of vaccines by the end of January, and over 40 million from COVAX, Ehanire noted that “apart from the COVAX facility, which is billed to cover just 20% of our population, the government plans to increase it’s chances of getting enough vaccines to meet the country’s need to cover an additional 50% of the population”
The Minister also disclosed that Nigeria is participating in the African Union initiative called “African Vaccine Availability Task Team”, which reports directly to the African Union Chairman, President Ramaphosa of South Africa, and has secured 270 million doses of various types of vaccines.
He added that Nigeria has written to express interest in 10 million doses of the viral vector vaccine, which could be supplied as from March 2021, bearing in mind options suitable for our environment and the available infrastructure, as well as Investment in delivery.
Ehanire revealed that preparation for covid-19 vaccine requires that countries determine criteria for prioritization, develop a robust vaccine distribution strategy and identify vaccine administration sites and teams.
“It also requires that countries develop a procurement, supply chain and distribution plan for commodities and devices, as well as a sustainability plan. These we are already working on so that we are ready when the vaccines arrive” he said.
The Ministry of Health, he said, shall hold a National Vaccine Conference, as part of preparations, to mobilize experts, role players, Development Partners and stakeholders to create a unified and strategic front for the provision and vaccination of Nigerians against COVID 19.
“The Conference will also provide a platform for deliberation on our covid-19 response strategy especially at this time of spike in cases
“We shall engage other FMOH Agencies, especially NAFDAC and NCDC, State governments, Religious, Traditional and community leaders, in plans for vaccines distribution, since their role is critical to the orderly and successful deployment of vaccines. We must be able to reach all those eligible to receive the vaccines”, he added.
Speaking on the reports of claims by some persons in Nigeria, to have COVID-19 vaccines for sale in the country, Ehanire advised all citizens to disregard the claims as they are “criminal.”
“There are procedures for vaccine acquisition and use which include appropriate regulation and certification by NAFDAC.
I advise against fake vaccines, as there is no vaccine approved for use in the country and NPHCDA is the only authorized vaccine administrator in Nigeria”, Ehanire said.
He disclosed that Nigeria’s positivity rate increased from 14% to 20% last week, adding that 50,750 samples tested 10,300 was confirmed positive.
“It means 1 out of every 5 persons tested in the last one week turned out positive compared to the previous week” he said.
Earlier, the PTF chairman, Mr Bose Mustapha said, it has authorized the NCDC to immediately implement at least 450 tests per LGA plan, nationwide, immediately.
He disclosed that Nigeria and South Africa has so far recorded highest number of COVID-19 cases.
According to him, while South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Algeria and Kenya account for 76% of all cases in the region, Nigeria has moved up to third position in highest cumulative case load but remains second for new cases and 5th highest in cumulative deaths on the WHO African region.
He added that the PTF will continue to dialogue with the Governors and the Federal Ministry of Education to closely monitor the situation.
“We are aware that States are not on the same pedestal in the area of testing and we shall begin with States that are in the forefront of resourcing and infrastructure.
“The PTF wishes to emphasise the need for all segments of the society to get involved in the risk communication and community engagement.
In our continued collaboration with the religious and traditional rulers, we align with the statements issued by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) guiding the sick and the elderly on the need to avoid large gathering by staying at home. We are optimistic that other institutions will follow suit as we progress”.