… As Nigeria to Speed up Local Vaccine Production — Fayemi
The Federal Government is lining up 50,000 people, including frontline health workers, the elderly, persons with comorbidity and targeted police and immigration officers as the first set of Nigerians to receive the awaited Covid-19 vaccines.
Comorbidity is the presence of one or more additional conditions often co-occurring with a primary condition. The Director of Disease Control and Immunization at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Bassey Okposen said in Abuja on Friday that the 100,000 vaccine doses expected from Pfizer by the end of this month or early February, would be administered to the above priority groups in two doses.
Okposen, speaking during a virtual sensitization meeting with reporters on the Covid-19 vaccine, said: “When the vaccines arrive according to the plan that we have, there is going to be prioritization of persons to be given the vaccinations in order to optimise the available resources. This will be based on global guidelines and best practices.
“Based on World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) guidelines, health workers will be given first priority once the expected 100,000 of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines are received in the country in the first quarter of 2021. “Other frontline workers like immigration at the airport, personnel at testing centres, police officers who are on essential duties, etc., would also be prioritised for vaccination because of the exposure. Then we’ll have the next group which are the elderly that are 50 years and above because most of the deaths that we see are among the elderly. Also, those that have comorbid conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension and all other diseases that might predispose a person, and are younger than 50 years, will also be given priority.
“We will also give priority to the burden of the disease in the country, that is, those states with higher number of cases will be given additional doses to be able to address the citizens at risk. “We are already in the process of micro-planning and we have mapped out the health workers and where their locations are and the places where these vaccines will be deployed to as soon as we receive them.
“About 70 per cent of Nigerians are being prioritised for vaccines to be administered to them in 2021 and 2022, to slow down the cases and reduce the number of morbidity and mortality from the covid-19 pandemic. In the year 2021, we are targeting 40 per cent of Nigerians, that is 84,655,749 Nigerians to be immunised. In the year 2022, we will be targeting additional 30 per cent of Nigerians, that is, 65,035,014. By the time we do this in 2021 and 2022, we will have been able to immunise 70 per cent of Nigerians.
“With the additional herd immunity, we should have been able to slow down the transmission in the country. It means that by the end of 2022, 149,690,763 Nigerians will have been vaccinated.”
He said that apart from the COVAX platform, Nigeria also has other alternative sources of Covid-19 vaccines. His words: “We have countries like Russia, UAE, etc., which are producing some vaccines. So the Ministry and the Agency and other stakeholders are working to see how we can get additional vaccines from these alternative sources to be able to immunize Nigerians that are targeted.
“It is important to state that the vaccines that we are going to use to immunise our people will be safe and effective. The vaccines will be introduced in four phases, majorly due to the availability and the quantity of the vaccines that will come in at any particular time. Since the herd immunity may take us up to 10 years to develop on its own, there is a need to introduce vaccines.”
Also speaking, the Head of Logistics and Health Commodities at the NPHCDA, Hajia Kubura Daradara, said the vaccines would be immediately taken to the National Strategic Cold Store in Abuja “where we have ultra cold chain freezers where we are going to store the vaccines.”
She said: “Before loading the vaccines into the ultra-cold chain equipment, the NAFDAC officer that has followed us from the airport to the cold store will pick a sample at random from every batch of the vaccine.
“This will be taken to the office for testing. After the testing, they will now certify to us that the vaccines are potent and good enough to be used. At the national level, the vaccines will be stored at the ultra cold temperatures which we have available. Pfizer is recommending – 70 degrees centigrade, they are from -60 to – 80 degrees centigrade.
“We are not releasing the vaccines to any state until we are sure that they are ready to implement the micro plan. For the transportation of the vaccines, we are going to be using dry ice in insulated thermal containers that are going to be sealed.
“So, when the states are ready for implementation, we will take the vaccine to them a day to the time they are going to start the implementation. At the state level, the vaccines can stay from + 2 to + 8 degree centigrade, which is our normal refrigeration for five days. Each state will do the implementation for five days because that is when the vaccines are still going to be potent when we give it to the state. When the vaccines get to the states, they can remove it and put it in their normal refrigerators where it is going to stay for five days.”
In a separate interview on Covid-19 crisis on Friday, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr Kayode Fayemi, said Nigeria was speeding up efforts to produce a locally manufactured vaccine to tackle the spread of the pandemic in the country. Fayemi, who is the governor of Ekiti State, spoke as he emerged from a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The governor, who said he visited the President for a routine meeting on behalf of the NGF to discuss issues surrounding security, the economy, COVID-19 vaccine management and the general outlook for 2021, said he discussed the issue of vaccine exhaustively with the President.
According to him, he agreed with Buhari that beyond shopping for and acquiring vaccines from various sources for Nigerians, the ultimate target was ramping up the local manufacture of the vaccine, adding that there was already a partnership with a firm on the matter.
“The federal government is already part of the WHO-GAVI Alliance-COVAX partnership, and from what we understand from the PTF, vaccines will come from that alliance,” he said. “Some of it from Pfizer in the first instance, and then maybe from other various producers of the vaccines later. But there is no clarity yet as to when these vaccines will arrive in Nigeria. So, one of the issues raised with Mr. President is the need to accelerate the delivery of vaccines to the country, so that it will be available to our people.
“Those of us at the receiving end in the states know that this is an issue we also need to ramp up our own preparedness in terms of getting our states ready for vaccines storage, particularly the freezers and cold chains that will be required for that process. We need to get ourselves ready at the state level. The federal government can procure but we will receive and administer in our various states, and there is a lot of work to be done in that respect.
“Of course, procurement of vaccines we also discussed. Our view is that ultimately, we really need to ramp up manufacturing of vaccines locally. It’s okay that COVAX, which Nigeria is part of, is going to be delivering some vaccines to us. As we understand, the first 100,000 and then 43 million and ultimately 165 million doses.
“But there is nothing as good as having the ability to manufacture our own vaccines locally, and we understand that there is a partnership with May & Baker, which is important for the federal government to really accelerate, so that we can produce the vaccines here in Nigeria and not be dependent on what is coming from other parts.”