Ihekweazu: COVID-19 Triggered Rapid Investment in Nigeria’s Health Security

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Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu

•Four million vaccines expected from COVAX next week

Festus Akanbi

Exactly one year after Nigeria recorded its COVID-19 index case, the federal government yesterday stated that the pandemic had triggered a rapid investment in the Nigerian health sector.

Also yesterday, World Health Organisation disclosed that Nigeria would get its first four million doses of coronavirus vaccines next week from the global COVAX programme for poor and middle-income countries.

The index case was an Italian, who came to Nigeria on February 25, 2020 and whose health status was confirmed on February 27, 2020.
But taking stock of the management of the disease in Nigeria in the past one year, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, disclosed that COVID-19 had set in motion rapid investment in Nigeria’s health security, high level of coordination, collaboration, and solidarity across federal and state governments.

Listing specific gains so far, the director general said: “In one year, molecular laboratories have been established in every state in Nigeria, a digital surveillance system (SORMAS) has been implemented across all states and new standard treatment centres are being established across the country.

“Almost every state in Nigeria now has a public health emergency operations centre, integrating a call centre, and other resources required to manage this outbreak. A national stockpile of response commodities has been established and new oxygen plants built.”
He added that “no other outbreak has led to this level of widespread investment in our health security.”

Ihekweazu also counted the gains of collaboration and coordination, saying, “perhaps, one of the biggest strengths of Nigeria’s response to this pandemic has come from the power of coordination, collaboration, and solidarity across federal and state governments, across the public and private sectors, between the United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations, and most critically across the government and its citizens.”

Acknowledging the role of the private sector, Ihekweazu said: “One of the most unexpected acts of collaboration was seen in the corporate private sector. Companies that usually compete with one another, came together to form a coalition – the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID). Through this, they channeled their support to the response, reducing the bureaucracy and ensuring that their support went straight to beneficiaries as much as possible.
“They have shown incredible leadership and support, pooling their support and bringing life to the phrase – “Stronger Together”.

Four Million Vaccines Expected from COVAX Next Week

The World Health Organisation yesterday disclosed that Nigeria would get its first four million doses of coronavirus vaccines next week from the global COVAX programme for poor and middle-income countries.
Walter Kazadi Mulombo, head of WHO’s mission in Nigeria, told a briefing by video link that Nigeria was expecting 14 million doses in total.