As FG receives Astrazeneca vaccines …Buhari, Osinbajo, govs, health workers, others set for vaccination

As Nigeria awaits the delivery of four million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines Tuesday (today), the Federal Ministry of Health, in with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), has rolled out plans to vaccinate all in two years.

By the arrangement, President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the 36 state governors as well as the FCTA minister and the frontline health workers would all take their turns in that order, after which the generality of would follow.  

Launching the plan tagged T.E.A.C.H and EMID at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers Abuja, Monday, Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire said Nigeria has designed a unique home-grown system to ensure no Nigerian is left behind.

The launch was witnessed by the Director General National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) Professor  Moijisola Adeyeye, representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and other health organisations in the country.

NPHCDA explains

Providing insight into what the home-grown system entails, Executive Director NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib stated that it would be adopted for implementation at the vaccination centers in all the 7,000 political wards in the country.

He said: “The vaccines would be saved in the right temperature-plus 2 to 8 degree Celsius. Transportation to states will be by cargo plane to states with functional airport and those without airport would liaise with neighbouring states with airport.

“We will ensure they are saved in the right temperature in all the 7,000 political wards in the country. We will also deploy teams to vaccinate people in industries, rural areas, and riverine areas to avoid congestion.”

Faisal stated that the idea that informed the adoption of the indigenous means to be adopted was borne out of the experience of the campaign against other diseases such as polio, Ebola and others in recent years.

He said: “T.E.A.C.H. means traditional vaccination campaign that will ensure that in every ward, there is a Primary Health Care to which people can be vaccinated. There will be a mobile team that can go from local areas and riverine areas to register all that come for vaccine.

“There will be electronic registration by all eligible . Health workers will have priority. Not everybody has phone. We will go to rural areas and ensure everybody is registered. There will be registration and vaccination at the same time. We will also adopt manual system.

“We will ensure no Nigerian is left behind. It is going to be house-to-house registration. We shall identify where there are and deploy teams to the area.

“The vaccination is going to be in phases and phase one will include Health Care workers. It would also include security people and our leaders including the president, vice president and other political leaders to show that the vaccine is safe and protected.

“The third phase would include those local councils and areas identified to be high level areas of the pandemic while the fourth phase would mean everybody.”

The NPHCDA boss also stated that people can register electronically through Electronic and Management of Immunisation Data (EMID).

“Those who want to register for vaccination are to log on to [email protected] and follow instruction,” he said.

Shuaib assured that those who filled the form would immediately be informed of the date and venue for the vaccination, adding successful people can also assist others to fill the form.

Minister on benefits

Speaking at the launch, the Health of Minister, Dr Ehanire, said the vaccine is safe and would stop the transmission of the disease, as it had yielded result in different parts of the world.

He said: “Our goal is to vaccinate all in two years. We won’t leave any Nigerian behind. We urge all in the states to align with the home-grown system we are adopting.

“There are fake vaccines around in the illegal markets, NAFDAC will confiscate illegal drugs. WHO has advised that we limit vaccination to 18 years and above except if the risk is justified. It will remain that way until science says it is safe.  The NPHCDA has trained people for known and unknown side effects.”

He also stated that the federal government signed an agreement that the producer of the vaccine would not be held responsible over the side effects of the vaccine, but added that the federal government would stand by whoever experiences adverse side effect.

Professor Adeyeye said NAFDAC gave exception to the arrival of the drug on February 18 but assured that it will ensure there are track and trace and what she called Phamaco –vigilance.

FG orders NAFDAC, Customs

In a related development, the federal government has ordered two of its agencies – the Nigeria Customs Service (NIS) andthe National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) – to seize and destroy unauthorised vaccines in the country. 

Minister of State for Health Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora announced the directive at a briefing by the Presidential Task Force on Control of COVID-19.

The minister also ruled out private sector participation in the administration of Nigeria’s allocation of four million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines expected in the country today.

He also raised concern over possible third wave if Nigerians failed to adhere to the non-pharmaceutical measures put in place by the PTF.

Mamora said all manufacturers of vaccines required an official indemnification to be able to use their product, and the federal government would not sign indemnity for what it cannot defend.

The minister said: “As the much expected first batch of COVID vaccines from the COVAX facility arrives from Mumbai to Nigeria tomorrow, all plans and arrangements have been finalised to ensure a hitch-free rollout of vaccination, including training of health workers, secured logistics and cold chain equipment to receive vaccines in all wards of the federation.

“The vaccines will be received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport and delivered to the National Strategic Cold Store (NSCS), Abuja, where inspection and quality tests will be conducted by NAFDAC and due documentation and certification done.

“We shall begin the roll out with the vaccination of frontline health workers who are our first line of defence. Our goal is to introduce the COVID-19 vaccine in a phased and equitable manner, ultimately vaccinating all eligible Nigerians within the next two years to ensure herd immunity. World Health Organization recommendation is not to vaccinate persons under 18 years of age, until more scientific data is available on any effects on growing children.

“The TEACH Strategy of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) for COVID-19 vaccination and the Electronic Management of Immunization Data System was launched today. The innovative strategy will enable a smooth roll out of vaccination and ensure that no beneficiary is left behind.

“It is important to mention that Nigeria is expecting enough vaccines of three types, to cater to our needs, with the option to increase supply if need be. There will, for now, be no need for ungoverned private importation of vaccines.

“Vaccine deployment will be by NPHCDA, till further notice and I can assure all citizens that they are in a position to cater to the needs of all persons, as in the rollout strategy, but also able to respond to institutions, clusters and settings, including closed settings like prisons and IDPs, with deployment of NPHCDA vaccination teams. This is upon application and special arrangements.

“All manufacturers of vaccines require an official indemnification to be able to use their product, which Nigeria has provided for the Covax facility. Vaccines from any other sources must first have NAFDAC’s Emergency Use Authorization, and are not covered under the indemnification arrangement.

“Such vaccines will be illegal and therefore subject to be impounded by NAFDAC and Customs.  All vaccines coming into Nigeria will arrive only by the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja. Arrival at any other airport will not be allowed and sure to be confiscated by Customs. It is important to have an orderly, disciplined rollout to avoid chaos in the immunization scene.

“I urge all eligible Nigerians to turn up when invited to be vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine. This is the way to achieve our target of herd immunity and end the transmission of this deadly virus.

“I again advise that rollout of vaccination does not end or excuse from observing the measures. They should be obeyed even more strictly than before, as there is no room for relaxing, even if it seems the infection rate is reducing. There are countries experiencing the third wave, after surviving the second phase, a reason for us to beware.”

Arrival ray of hope, says SGF

Also speaking, PTF chair and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, said arrival of the vaccines was a ray of hope.

“This development offers a huge ray of hope that comes with its own and responsibilities for all Nigerians. We must all be prepared to take responsibility. 

“The following facts are germane: The development of vaccines is a ray of hope is a welcome development; Vaccines alone cannot be a ; Accessing vaccines has been strategic and deliberate; Vaccines coming to Nigeria shall be safe and efficacious; the PTF is coordinating while the Federal Ministry of Health(FMOH), and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA)are directly implementing using existing infrastructure and skills set; the required Vaccines Strategy Steering Committee has been set up by the HM Health; the administration of vaccines shall be prioritised in a strategic manner beginning with health sector frontline workers and strategic leadership; Over 2021 and 2022, we aim to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population,” he said.

The SGF further said the of core objectives behind the germane facts on vaccines shall remain farfetched if Nigerians failed to overcome vaccines hesitancy and scepticism; elite resistance; possible emergence of unauthorised or fake vaccines; and from sub-nationals; double registration and fake ; and security.

“The last one year has revealed the strength of and the positive spirit of sacrifice and public service inherent in Nigerians. The of purpose demonstrated through the financial, material and technical have been phenomenal. The successes recorded are directly attributable to the strong received.

“I also wish to publicly acknowledge with thanks, the of private and public entities including-CACOVID; NNPC, CBN, corporate organisations, the security agencies, all MDAs, airlines, the Armed Forces, etc. Particularly, I wish to make a special mention of all media organisations for communicating the risks and the messages. You have been more than wonderful.

“The of the international community and development partners has proven that their friendship with Nigeria is real, for good times and difficult times. We do not take this for granted.

“The frontline workers, particularly the medical personnel are strongly acknowledged. The PTF notes that several frontline workers got infected in their line of duty. Your sacrifices shall, however, never go unrecognised.

“Despite the , the PTF swished to commend the National Response as successful.  At inception, the primary aim was to strengthen the health system to withstand this and other pandemics, slow down the spread and minimize the fatalities. We have reasonably achieved these objectives and more.” 

The COVAX Facility is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), with UNICEF as a key implementing partner.

The COVAX was launched April 2020 to help ensure a fairer distribution of coronavirus vaccines between rich and poor nations, with a plan to deliver two billion doses to its members by the end of 2021.

 ‘Enough storage facilities’

Meanwhile, the ground handling companies have expressed readiness to provide storage services and facilities for the duration of the vaccination across Nigeria. 

The two leading ground handlers in the aviation industry namely; Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc and the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc- Monday said they  were upbeat that when called upon, enough storage facilities and capacities to handle the vaccines at specified and required temperature would be made available.  

An official of NAHCO, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Lagos under anonymity, said the company has the capability and to handle the vaccines and had prepared all the necessary cold rooms and equipment to handle such materials. 

He said: “We have prepared our cold rooms and other facilities in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt for something like this. Once we received alerts from any quarters, we are ready to go.” 

Also speaking, spokesperson for SAHCO Plc, Mrs Vanessa UANSOHIA said with a total of seven cold rooms and freezers fitted with the latest technology to adapt the required temperature for any cargo, the firm was ready to handle such temperature- sensitive cargo.

She added: “With experienced well-trained staff with CEIV certifications to handle pharmaceuticals, SAHCO is positioned to handle the covid-19 vaccine which is expected to be made available to the public soon.

“These freezers and cold rooms which can be used as hub for cargo from up to 12 to 15 aircrafts pallets each are equipped with temperature and data loggers which makes it easy for specified logging of the right temperature.”

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