Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Federal Government has said that 50,000 persons would be administered with COVID-19 vaccines in the first phase of the rollout.
National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) said the country is expecting to take delivery of 100,000 doses of vaccines by the end of this month.
The agency said the federal government had put in place a technical working group for COVID-19 vaccine headed by the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib that would coordinate the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination in the country.
The technical group is made up of all relevant ministries, parastatals and partners.
Director of the Department of Diseases Control and Immunisation at the agency, Dr. Bassey Ekposen who disclosed this during a virtual meeting with media stakeholders yesterday, organised by NPHCDA, said that health workers across the country would form the bulk of the initial beneficiaries of the vaccines.
“The team is planning to introduce COVID-19 vaccine with the sole aim is interrupting the transmission of COVID-19 in all parts of the country,” he said.
Ekposen said there are many vaccines available globally for dealing with COVID-19 but that the country is zeroing down on two options, the COVAX scheme which is coming through the GAVI – Global Vaccines and Immunization that Nigerians are used to.
He said that through GAVI, the poor and low income would be able to access the COVID-19 vaccines when they are ready.
He said that apart from the COVAX scheme, Nigeria also has other alternative sources to obtain the COVID-19 vaccines, like the Russians and United Arab Emirates.
According to him, the technical group is working on plans to also source vaccines from these countries as an alternative platform to get enough vaccines for our citizens.
Ekposen said that it was important to use the occasion to clear the fears about the safety of those that would take the vaccines, stating that as far the agency is concerned, the COVID-19 vaccines to be administered are “safe and effective”.
“A lot of work is going on to ensure that the vaccines that will be introduced in Nigeria are safe and effective,” he said.
Speaking in the timelines for the introduction of the vaccines, the Director said that as soon as the vaccines arrive the country, there is going to be some kind of prioritisation in order to optimise the limited resources available.
He said the arrangement would be based on global best practices, adding the frontline health workers, airport workers, immigration, security men who are on essential duties.
He said that the segment of the society that would be prioritised are the elderly, those above ages of 50 and those that have comorbid conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
Ekposen said that the agency is targeting to vaccinate 70% Nigerians between this year and next year.
While explaining the handling and distribution mechanism for the covid-19 vaccines, NPHCDA said “immediately the vaccines arrive Abuja, they will be taken to our National Strategic Cold Store in Abuja where we have ultra-cold chain freezers for storage.”
It said before being loaded to the freezers, a sample of the vaccines would be taken by officials of NAFDAC for analysis and eventual certification in line extant laws.
The agency said that it would not release the vaccines to any until they are sure that the state is ready to implement.
According to her, as soon as each state ready to implement the vaccination, NPHCDA will transport and supply them within 24 hours.
It further explained that the implementation is going to last for five days in each state when the vaccine will still retain its potency.