Nurses Raise the Alarm over Inadequate Medical Personnel for COVID-19 Vaccination

•Govs set up committee on procurement, administration of vaccines
•Expect first shipment end of February
•Disown Yahaya Bello’s claim on pandemic

Chuks Okocha and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Nurses yesterday warned that inadequate medical personnel could jeopardise the efforts of the federal and state governments to administer COVID-19 vaccines on Nigerians.
They spoke just as the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) announced the composition of a committee to oversee the procurement and administration of the vaccines, whose first shipment is expected to arrive in the country by February ending.

National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwife (NANNM) President, Mr. Abdul Adeniji, told THISDAY that the country does not have adequately trained manpower to administer the vaccines on a large scale.

He said: “In the first instance, the federal government said that when planning a health programme of this nature professional associations ought to be involved at the beginning. It is not at the implementation stage that you try to bring us in. You plan for us. You plan with us but this is missing. That is challenge number one.

“The second challenge is how adequate is the planning for the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines in the country? It is not just a vaccine for polio or tuberculosis; it is a special one.
“Do we even have adequate hands? I say no. We don’t also have adequate equipment to carry out the vaccination programme.”

Adeniji also identified the possibility of resistance to the vaccines by the people as another major threat to the vaccination programme.
According to him, the acceptability of vaccines, manpower, and assurance of availability of enough doses of the vaccines are critical to a successful vaccination campaign.

“The introduction of vaccines is usually a collaborative engagement between the national, state, and local government areas but as regards this issue of COVID-19 vaccines, the challenge is about its acceptability by the people.
“The acceptability of that therapy is very important. The ethical constitution is that the vaccines have to first be accepted by the people in the area before the health workers step in to administer it,” he said.

Adeniji added that there are still doubts among many Nigerians over the existence of COVID-19, warning that this will create apathy amongst the citizens when the vaccination begins.

However, reacting to the concerns raised by NANNM, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, told THISDAY that the federal government acknowledged that lack of personnel may hinder the successful implementation of the vaccination programme and is planning to recruit more health workers to fill the gap.

Shuaib said: “We do not have adequate health workers in most PHCs across the country. So, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines would be an added burden.
“This is why part of the Presidential Taskforce on Control of COVID-19 (PTF) and the Federal Ministry of Health’s plan for the deployment of vaccines is to not only provide the vaccines but to recruit additional health workers to ensure that the vaccines are delivered successfully to eligible Nigerians.”

On the position expressed by NANNM that its members are not involved in the vaccine rollout plan, Shuaib identified Mr. Emmanuel Udontre of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria as the one representing the nursing and midwifery team in the COVID-19 Technical Working Group at NPHCDA.

Govs Set up Committee on Procurement, Administration of Vaccines

Meanwhile, governors have set up a committee on the procurement and administration of the vaccines.
In a communiqué issued yesterday after a meeting that ended on Wednesday night, the 36 state governors also dissociated themselves from the comments of their Kogi State counterpart, Mr. Yahaya Bello, that the vaccines are meant to kill.

The NGF communiqué signed by the Chairman of the forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said following the presentations, the forum set up a team of experts led by Professor Oyewale Tomori to advise state governors on the procurement and administration of coronavirus vaccines in the country.

Fayemi also briefed the governors on a meeting with the Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on the rollout of the COVAX facility, which is a global risk-sharing mechanism co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to facilitate pooled procurement and the equitable distribution of the vaccines to developing countries.

“Nigeria is among 12 countries in Africa that have indicated the readiness of the 92 qualified countries for the facility and will by end of February 2021 receive its first shipment of vaccines,” the communiqué stated.

It said the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) indicated that vaccines will be administered in four phases, based on vaccine type and availability, initially for frontline health workers, then the aged (55 years and above), persons with underlying medical conditions and other target groups.

The communiqué said the governors “received briefings from three medical experts, including a leading virologist and former Vice-Chancellor of Redeemer’s University, Prof. Oyewale Tomori; Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib; Founder/Managing Director Synlab Nigeria (formerly PathCare), and President Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, Dr. Pamela Ajayi; and Founding Partner of the Anadach Group, Dr. Egbe Dawodu, on the country’s preparedness for the procurement and administration of vaccines and the level of collaboration required from all stakeholders, including the federal, state governments and the private sector.”

Reacting to Bello’s comments on the vaccine, the communiqué said: “On the ill-fated pronouncement made by a member of the forum regarding the COVID-19 vaccine in a national daily, the forum totally and categorically dissociated itself from the statement, emphasising that the forum will continue to be informed and guided by science and will ensure that every decision it takes retains public and professional trust and is not compromised by conflicts of interest.”

Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who is the chairman of the NGF Sub-Committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, also reported with concern the rising positivity rate amongst those tested for the virus.

Okowa called on governors to do more to reactivate their health systems, open up treatment centres and increase partnerships with stakeholders in order to improve risk communication and the public’s adherence to guidelines.
The communiqué added that the governors received a presentation from the Minister of Water Resources, Mr. Suleiman Adamu, and the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, on the Sustainable Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SUWASH) results-based financing programme for the states.

The programme becomes necessary given the state of the sector, which has contributed to 73 per cent of Nigeria’s total burden of enteric infections and over 255,000 preventable deaths in the country each year.

“State governors consequently committed to increasing budgetary allocation to the sector with the collaboration of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the World Bank through the $640 million investment finance and $60 million technical assistance component which together will support and incentivise infrastructure investments and strengthen government policies and institutions in the WASH sector,” the communiqué added.

It also reported a presentation made by the Special Adviser to the President on Finance and Economy, Dr. Sarah Alade, on the development of the Nigeria Agenda 2050 and the Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP), which will succeed Vision 20:2020 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017 – 2020.

The governors said they were committed to supporting the development of the national plan by providing technical inputs to ensure that the plan is inclusive, comprehensive, and reflective of the component development plans of each state.
According to the communiqué, state submissions will be made by February 10, 2021, and will underpin the use of credible data, social development and economic diversification.

The governors also received a presentation from Dimensions Information Technology LLC on a proposed harmonised traffic management system for states to boost their internal revenue generation.
The plan, the communiqué said, was assigned to a committee, peopled by the governors of Lagos, Niger, Jigawa, and Edo States for review and to advise the forum.

The communiqué said the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, updated the governors on the eligibility criteria for the 2020 States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Annual Performance Assessment (APA), which requires in part that all state governments prepare their FY2021 budgets in line with the National Chart of Accounts (minimum of administrative, economic and function classifications) and that the budgets are approved by their state Houses of Assembly, assented by governors, and published online by 31st January 2021.

“The governor stated that all states have already met the second part of the eligibility criteria by publishing an IPSAS-compliant 2019 audited financial statement online by August last year. He encouraged states to take advantage of the technical assistance being provided by the NGF secretariat on the domestication of the national chart of accounts,” it said.

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