As the world scrambles for the limited quantity of COVID-19 vaccines on offer, Nigeria has produced two vaccines against the virus, which are set to undergo clinical trials and possible certification.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, disclosed this at yesterday's briefing of the PTF in Abuja.
He said: "The disclosure that Nigerian scientists have produced at least two local COVID-19 vaccines which are awaiting clinical trials and certification is significant. This is a welcome development that will open a new vista in scientific breakthrough and will boost the morale and image of the medical industry in the country.
"I call on all relevant agencies to provide the required support and enabling environment for smooth conduct of the remaining protocols for the certification of these vaccines, with a view to encouraging and motivating other researchers."
He said the PTF would keep Nigerians posted with the number of persons vaccinated so far, even as the records showed that over seven million persons had been vaccinated in Africa.
Mustapha added that the PTF has received 300,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines from MTN Nigeria, urging other partners to contribute towards the fight against COVID-19.
On the issue of international flights, the SGF said: "The PTF had informed you in the past few weeks on the discussions on the KLM & Emirates Airlines services in Nigeria. Today, I will like to inform you that KLM has commenced full operations in and out of Nigeria since March 15, 2021, while operations of Emirates in and out of the country has been suspended with the exemption of cargo and humanitarian flights.
"In the course of the week, a new travel and Quarantine protocols will be unveiled to incorporate persons vaccinated against this virus and make travels safe for international passengers.
"Efforts are being put in place for the reopening of Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu international airports."
He charged the media on the need to be very vigilant on the management of vaccines, saying except there is greater vigilance, there is no guarantee that the vaccines would not find their ways into the shelves of patent medicine sellers.
On his part, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the ministry had last week met with officials of AstraZeneca group, adding that there was no cause for alarm regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
"Last week, we met with the AstraZeneca group at the Federal Ministry of Health. The meeting provided an opportunity for one-on-one clarification on the vaccines. The outcome of the meeting was a reassurance of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine against COVID-19. "We have not yet recorded unusual side effects among those who have received the vaccine, which includes myself. NAFDAC is monitoring the process as part of a global tracking of adverse effects of the vaccine.
"Anyone who has received the vaccine and is experiencing any adverse reaction, should please report to NAFDAC using the Med Safety App on your phone or report at the centre where you received the vaccination," he stated.
Ehanire also condemned incidences of vaccine racketeering in designated centres, saying there was no need for that.
He said: "We have received reports of racketeering in some of the designated vaccination centres. This is not necessary. Vaccination has been scheduled in phases such that frontline health workers and those at higher risk of the infection are vaccinated first after registration at the portal.
"Everyone will be vaccinated free and everyone will eventually be vaccinated. There is no need to pay to be vaccinated."
IOM donates 28 thermal scanners
Meanwhile, as part of its contributions to ensure faster passenger facilitation at the nation's Points of Entry, PoEs, the United Nations migration agency, the International Organization for Migration, IOM, has donated 28 thermal scanners to Port Health Services and the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS.
According to IOM, the gesture is to further strengthen the capacity of processing passengers at the five main international airports, including Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu, with the required COVID-19 protocols in place.
The UN agency is also currently installing isolation containers and boreholes at four land border points in the North West.
IOM's Chief of Mission, Mr Franz Celestin, in an address read at the event in Abuja, disclosed that for the past seven months, the organization, alongside Port Health Services and the Nigeria Immigration Service, have worked hand in hand to strengthen the PHS and NIS' COVID-19 response efforts.
"This collaboration has resulted in 19 Points of Entry being equipped with the necessary infrastructure and equipment for effective border management. None of this would have been possible without the generous support of the British Government.
"To date we have provided hand sanitisers, gloves, surgical masks, handheld non-contact infrared thermometers, tyvek overall suits, knapsack sprayers and fogging machines, and today we want to complement these with 28 thermal scanners which will be distributed to all the five international airports.
"Human mobility has played a central role in the spread of the disease; therefore, it is crucial to strengthen applied preventive measures at the international airports as gateways to multiple foreign countries. I am very honoured to hand over these items today to PHS, as another testament of the commitment from the British Government and IOM to support border management in Nigeria.
"We can all agree that responding to the pandemic is not about PPEs and equipment. To this end IOM has trained 17 PHS frontline offices and 9 NIS officials on Infection Prevent and Control protocols as far as border management is concerned. We are currently installing isolation containers and boreholes at 4 land border points in North West", said Celestin.
According to him, the development of COVID-19 vaccines brings hope to all and begins the journey to what hopefully will one day be history.
"We continue to advocate for equitable distribution of vaccines to ensure that no one is left behind. While the advocacy continues, we all should be mindful of the fact that it is far from over. We still need to collectively ensure that frontline agencies are protected so that they can effectively manage our vast national borders", he added.
He reiterated IOM's commitment to continuously support the Federal Government and relevant agencies to enhance capacities for better border management and safe migration for all.
IOM noted that since COVID-19 started spreading worldwide in early 2020, strengthening the capacity at Points of Entry PoEs to boost frontline responders' preparedness and response efforts has been central to dealing with the new dynamics of border control and management.
"The International Organization for Migration IOM supports the efforts of the Port Health Services PHS and Nigeria Immigration Service NIS by providing the required equipment and materials that will enable them to respond to the challenges brought on by the pandemic effectively", the organization stated.
In November 2020, IOM, with support from the British High Commission, had donated several types of Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, sanitation and hygiene supplies as well as computers to the PHS and NIS to service 19 PoEs made up of five international airports, seven land borders and seven sea borders.
Vanguard News Nigeria