• Don’t go for vaccine not suitable for our storage facilities, Tomori tells govt

• Vaccination not substitute for adherence to COVID-19 protocols – Virologists

• SGF, Minister of Health, others in line to take vaccine dosage first

Olalekan Adetayo, Friday Olokor, Adelani Adepegba, Dayo Ojerinde, Femi Asu and Wale Oyewale

The Federal Government will need about N2.44tn for the vaccination of 164.8 million Nigerians, who will not have access to free vaccines the country is expecting from the international community.

Currently, coronavirus vaccines available globally include those discovered by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson,  Oxford and Novavax.

Recall that the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, at a   press conference of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja on Tuesday, said 100,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine would be received by the country at the end of this month.

He also said  Nigeria would secure  free delivery of 42 million doses of vaccines, which would be a combination of all the available and approved vaccines currently in the market.

According to him, the 42 million doses of the vaccines will only cover 20 per cent of the country’s population, which the National Population Commission, recently put at 206 million.

Shuaib added that the NPHCDA, the PTF and the Federal Ministry of Health were working on financial requirements for procuring more vaccines.

He, however, said the country needed to cover only 70 per cent of its population with vaccination to battle the virus.

But based on his statement that the 42 million doses of vaccines, which Nigeria would get free of charge, would cover 20 per cent of Nigeria’s population, it means 41.2 million Nigerians would vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving 164.8 million others unprotected.

Although there are various vaccines,  www.healthline.com  states that Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine  costs $19.5 per dose ( $39 per two doses).

The United States’ Food and Drug Administration Agency had last month said Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered as a two-dose series, three weeks apart.

Based on the two-dose requirement for each of the 164.8 million Nigerians, it means the country will need  $6.43bn or N2.44tn (using CBN official exchange rate of N379/$1)  to procure the vaccine for them.

A professor of virologist, Oyewale Tomori, in an interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday, gave the costs of other vaccines

According to him, Moderna  vaccine is between $10 and $50,  Johnson & Johnson, $10 and Oxford, $3 to $4 per dose.

He, however,  advised the Federal Government to not procure vaccines that the country lacked the facility to store.

Tomori said procuring a vaccine that would be difficult to store in Nigeria would be like adding to the problem of the pandemic in the country.

He said, “There are three or four different types of vaccines at the moment; there is the one from Pfizer that must be stored at -70°C; Moderna vaccine must be stored at -20°C and there are others that can be stored at fridge temperature.”

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Number of people infected will determine vaccination coverage needed – Tomori

Commenting on the coverage of vaccination needed by the country, he stated, “The coverage will depend on the purpose and the vaccine. For Yellow fever, we asked for something about 80 per cent coverage, but for COVID-19 we don’t know the duration of the immunity. Yellow fever, for example, when you get the vaccine, you get it almost for life. But for COVID-19, nobody knows how long the immunity of the vaccine will last.

“People have talked about covering 60 per cent of the population. The 20 per cent we are getting from Coarvex will not solve our problem. The answer to say is that we don’t know; it depends on the epidemiology of the disease in a country, the number of people infected and have recovered.”

Also, a professor of Virology at the College of Medicine,  Ibadan, Prof. Georgina Odaibo, said the Federal Government must build an effective work plan to ensure proper handling  and application of the vaccine.

Odaibo said, “A national body will have to handle the distribution and determine issues around it. I think that the body that is responsible for the distribution of vaccines should handle that. I don’t know the nature and capacity of storage that they have everywhere across the country.

“For me, adherence to COVID-19 protocols is number one. Even if you bring vaccine today, you cannot immunise everybody. It would take time before it goes round. It will be good for people to ensure that we practise what we know works – use of face masks, wash your hands and engage in physical distancing. It is very clear, if you practise those things, you would not need to rush for vaccines. We should know that it is not immediately the vaccines are imported that they would go round.”

On his part, another  Professor of Virology, Department of Virology, University of Ibadan, Prof. David Olaleye, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “The Primary Healthcare Development Agency handles the procurement, storage, distribution and utilisation of vaccines.

“Neither vaccine nor lockdown is the absolute answer to overcoming COVID-19. The strong recommendation is the non-pharmaceutical approaches such as hand washing, wearing of face masks, use of hand sanitisers and physical distancing. If you are vaccinated today, it will not work the same day.

“At the end of the day, we still need to go back to the protection strategies. Vaccination is not a substitute for prevention strategies. The best vaccine today is prevention. Hand hygiene, face covering and physical distancing are the most effective ways of preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

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SGF, Minister of Health, others may take vaccine first to boost confidence

The PTF chairman, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, and Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, may be part of the nation’s strategic leaders that will be part of those to be vaccinated first when COVID-19 vaccine arrives Nigeria later in the month.

The Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Shuaib, has also offered to take the vaccine in public to prove to Nigerians that it is safe.

Shuaib had at a press briefing of PTF on Tuesday said in administering the vaccine, priority would be given to frontline health workers, first responders (security), and strategic country leadership among others.

In an interview with one of our correspondents on Wednesday, he shed more light on those that formed “strategic country leadership” that will form part of those to be vaccinated first.

The NPHCDA boss said the idea was that those in the forefront of the fight to curtail the virus would be part of those to be vaccinated first in order to boost the confidence of Nigerians.

He said, “When we talked about strategic leaders, we are talking about people like the chairman of the PTF, the Minister of Health and others.

“This is meant to demonstrate to Nigerians the safety of the vaccine by coming out to be part of those to be vaccinated first.

“Like I said earlier, I have also offered to take the vaccine in public to prove that it is safe. Those are the kind of people we are referring to as strategic leaders in this context.”

When asked about the modalities to be adopted in sharing the vaccines to states, Shuaib explained that the government would be prioritising frontline health workers.

He said the government already had details of those frontline workers.

On storage, he said enough space was available at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

He said because ultra-cool chain equipment was expensive, the government decided to go for vaccines that the country readily had cool chain equipment that could be used to store them.

Shuaib also faulted some virologists qouted to have said it was dangerous to introduce COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

He said there was nothing dangerous about the vaccine which had already been approved by the World Health Organisation.

We detected infection surge in schools, offices – NCDC

Meanwhile, the NCDC on Wednesday explained why the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 directed that all schools in the country should remain shut till January 18.

The NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who stated in response to an enquiry by one of our correspondents, said the centre detected increased COVID-19 cases in schools and offices.

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Ihekweazu also said as part of efforts to battle COVID-19 second wave, the NCDC had deployed more rapid response teams to states.

Recall that  following the outbreak of COVID-19 second wave, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19,  at its press conference on December 21, said all  schools in the country would remain shut till January 18.

Ihekweazu, in his response to The EARDRUM9JA MEDIA’s questions, said the agency noticed a surge in COVID-19 cases in settings such as schools and offices.

He stated, “In the last two months, there has been a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country. This has affected nearly every state in the country. We also detected an increase in the number of cases in closed settings such as schools and offices.

“The decision to keep schools closed was to among other things, enable us to control this rapid spike in cases while reducing the risk to children and school staff.”

Advising states on reopening of the institutions, he said they should  “ensure they have put the appropriate measures in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread in schools. Physical distancing, hand washing and use of face masks are critical measures that have to be adhered to, but also require resources to implement in schools.”

The director-general also said that it was the duty of state governments to keep COVID-19 testing laboratories functioning, adding that the NCDC would continue to offer necessary support.

Responding to a claim by some state governments that it was not their function to conduct tests, he explained, “At the beginning of 2020, we started supporting laboratories across states to establish testing capacity for COVID-19. By the end of October 2020, every state in Nigeria had at least one public health laboratory for COVID-19.

“Most of these laboratories are located within existing structures of tertiary hospitals but established to meet the testing needs of states. Our role at the NCDC is to coordinate the network of public health laboratories. We have done this over the years for Lassa fever, yellow fever, cholera and other diseases.

“In this role, we coordinate uniform testing across the country by ensuring laboratories use the same algorithm, provide equipment, reagents and supplies needed for testing, ensure quality assurance, provide training and capacity building support.

“Every state is responsible for ensuring laboratories function to meet the need of the state, while the NCDC continues to support in this regard.”

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to meet with state epidemiologists every two weeks, and with state governors through the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the National Economic Council chaired by His Excellency, the Vice President.

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