The Federal Government has expressed its readiness to vaccinate approximately 109 million Nigerians against the Novel Coronavirus disease COVID-19 in the next two years.
While Nigeria's population stands at over 206 million, the country has just over 60, 000 vaccinators, with the Nigerian Primary Health Care Development Agency NPHCDA promising to boost the capacity of the personnel and also expand the size.
Also, Nigeria said, it on Saturday recorded the second highest number of COVID-19 case fatalities, as 24 patients at its treatment centres succumbed to the virus within 24 hours.
This came as government said it has scaled up surveillance against the Ebola Virus Disease at all its entry points in order to guard against importation and consequently having to deal with two pandemics simultaneously.
Speaking at Monday's briefing of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19, Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib said the Federal Government will work with the states to vaccinate all eligible population from 18 years and above including pregnant women.
"However, the decision to vaccinate any pregnant woman would be made in consultation with her healthcare provider. There will be consideration as to whether she is at high risk of contracting the COVID-19 or not and if she is a frontline health worker, support staff or responder in the security architecture of our country. In the end, we have to weigh the benefits versus the risks.
"After excluding those that are under 18 years, we plan to vaccinate approximately 109 million Nigerians who will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination over the course of two years. Additionally, the federal government has received the commitment of about 1.5 million and a hundred thousand doses of Astrazeneca vaccine from MTN and the Government of India respectively.
"All eligible population have been identified using the WHO Vaccine Allocation Framework and the Prioritization Roadmap as well as the Disease Burden Data from the NCDC. These criteria are the frontline health workers, their support staff including those who work in high risk areas such as the Points of Entry, Rapid Response Teams, Contact Tracing Teams, COVID-19 Vaccination Teams and Strategic Leadership. People aged 50 years and above; people aged 18-49 years with significant comorbidities and additional at-risk groups. In order to facilitate the implementation process, the Technical Working Group has come up with a strategy of pre-registration and scheduling of the target population to avoid overcrowding at vaccination posts", said Shuaib.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire on his part said the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control NAFDAC has taken delivery of "dossiers" of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V and others from India and China with a view to evaluating and certifying them fit or otherwise for human consumption.
Ehanire added that vaccines carry some amount of risks and warned Nigerians against patronizing those that have not been certified.
He said; "The National Agency For Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has received dossiers for Sputnik V vaccine of Russia, Covishield or Astra Zeneca manufactured under license by Serum Institute of India, Covaxin by Bharat vaccines of India and the Sinopharm Vaccine of China, for evaluation and validation for use in Nigeria. Some of them are nearly ready for results.
"It is important to stress that all COVID-19 vaccines carry a certain amount of risk and any vaccines not approved by the Federal Ministry of Health through its Agencies cannot be used in Nigeria. The government will not be responsible for the safety or efficacy of vaccines given outside the framework of the Government. All the needs of Nigeria have been carefully calculated by NPHCDA and it is possible to accommodate all interests in the framework.
"With regard to the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, AVATT, Nigeria this morning completed her account opening, signed by two officials each, of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance, Budget & National Planning, at Afrexim Bank as a requirement for access to vaccines on that platform, which will give Nigeria access to a much larger portfolio and variety of vaccines.
"Among the vaccines are the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine and as much of the Pfizer mRNA vaccines as we can manage. The covid19 Vaccine Coordinatiing Committee and NPHCDA's strategy for vaccine delivery will advise the mix of vaccines that Nigeria will acquire".
Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF and Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha said Nigeria is enhancing surveillance at its entry points against the Ebola Virus Disease.
"The PTF is also enhancing surveillance at points of entry to respond to recent outbreak of Ebola in neighboring countries, especially, Guinea and the Congo DCR. We shall keep a keen eye on it to avoid having to combat with the two deadly diseases at the same time. This is not a task for Government alone but for all Nigerians and indeed all members of the public have a role to play.
24 deaths in 24 hours
"There has been sustained efforts by sub-national entities and the FCT administration to stem the tide against the second wave of the pandemic. This is evident in the closure of some facilities including event centres, clubs, etc over the violation of protocols. We are glad with the direction of the collaboration and enforcement which we believe will deter other would-be violators. For the avoidance of doubt, places of worship should only have 50% of their capacity, indoor gatherings/meetings should not exceed 50 persons, at a time. Indoor Restaurants, Clubs and lounges should remain closed.
"On the other hand, the recorded death of twenty-four (24) COVID-19 patients in the country on Saturday, 13th February, 2021, being the second highest in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic should serve as a wake-up call for the populace to brace up for more compliance", the SGF stated.
He also asked states to enforce compliance with all safety measures and halt super-spreader events.
Speaking in the same vein, Ehanire said the Federal Ministry of Health constantly monitors diseases of public health concern around the world and is observing the Ebola disease outbreak in Guinea Conakry with concern.
According to him, Nigeria's Port Health Services have been put on alert on Land, Sea and Air borders and all major hospitals have also been put on notice to alert health workers to have a keen index of suspicion and to check patient travel history, especially at Outpatient departments, and report concerns to infectious disease focal persons and the State epidemiologists without hesitation.
"Stricter infection prevention and control measures, including Personal Protective measures, must be taken immediately there is reason to suspect. Nigeria is willing to send experienced volunteers from our Centres of Excellence on Viral haemmorrhagic fever, to support WHO measures to contain Ebola resurgence in our West African subregion. It is important to protect the subregion from the catastrophic burden of dealing with two severe diseases of public health concern.
"We shall work with West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) and WHO on strategies to bring this outbreak under control and shall provide regular updates on preparedness, containment and response measures in due course.
"In view of these developments, I shall renew my call on all Nigerians first to limit any travel abroad only to very essential trips, and to altogether avoid high burden countries and countries with particularly deadly disease outbreaks for now, so as not to pick up such diseases or become a vehicle for their importation to our country", Ehanire charged.
Government said it has also uncovered an international syndicate which specializes in issuing fake PCR Certificates to Nigerians returning to the country.
It said it would soon unveil a portal to allow Nigerians check the authenticity of such certificates real time and know whether the issuing laboratories are accredited by the government or otherwise.
Abuja Court convicts 33
Meanwhile, an Abuja Mobile Court has convicted 33 persons who were arrested and arraigned for not wearing facemasks in public places.
The convicts were said to have violated the Corona virus Disease (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations, 2021, as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Vanguard News Nigeria