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COVID-19: FG releases N10bn for vaccines’ production

The Ministry of Finance has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccines production to tackle COVID-19 in the country. Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) COVID-19 briefing yesterday in Abuja. Ehanire said: “The Ministry of Finance has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production.

“While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production, in collaboration with recognised institutions. We are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in the country.” He urged Nigerians to ignore claims by some people that they had COVID-19 vaccines for sale in the country. “I advise all citizens to disregard these claims, as they are criminals.

There are procedures for vaccine acquisition and use, which include appropriate regulations and certification by National Agency for Food and Drug and Administration and Control (NAFDAC). “I advise against fake vaccines, as there is no one approved for use in the country.

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is the only authorised vaccine administrator in Nigeria,” he said. Ehanire stated that the number of new COVID-19 cases had continued to rise in the country, such that 10,300 confirmed cases were reported from just 50,750 samples tested in one week, translating into 20 per cent positivity rate. “It means one out of every five persons tested in the last one week turned out positive, compared with the previous week, which recorded a positivity rate of 14 per cent.

“It is instructive of the second wave that all cases recorded so far this January is more than 20 per cent of all confirmed cases in Nigeria, more than the whole of December, barely halfway through the month.

“There is no doubting the fact that we are deeply into the second wave of the pandemic, which requires that PTF and FMoH review our strategies to respond to the challenge. “The federal ministry of health has outlined three approaches to confront the pandemic. These are: infection mitigation, therapeutics and vaccines,” he said.

Ehanire reiterated that reducing infection rate for COVID-19 remained the easiest and cheapest objective of government. According to him, government’s main effort is to ensure social mobilisation for testing, strengthening surveillance activities for early detection, active contact tracing, isolation and treatment. He, however, added that implementation of critical non-pharmaceutical measures required the cooperation of the public.

“This includes much more adherence to wearing masks, social distancing, use of sanitisers, etc than we are seeing today. Of special concern are the so-called “super spreader activities” that involve congregational settings, which must be reduced, restricted or prohibited in the interest of the common good. “With regards to therapeutics, we must strive to reduce mortality from this disease by ensuring adequate stock of supplies and strengthening our case management capacity.

“In this regard, the ministry of health is working to expand oxygen availability across the country to address shortages, which have been a challenge globally, and also to review the value of various pharmaceuticals and protocols proposed for COVID-19 treatment.

“Clinicians are also urged to work out guidelines for participating in clinical studies,” the minister said. Meanwhile, the PTF has debunked the insinuation that the expected coronavirus vaccines have microchips that could alter human DNA. This clarification was made by the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Develop-ment Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, at the media briefing. While encouraging Nigerians to take the vaccines once it’s available in the country, Shuaib disclosed that it would protect the body against the virus if encountered.

“We encourage all Nigerians to get vaccinated when vaccines become accessible as the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh the potential side effects. The chances of spreading the disease is significantly reduced once community members are vaccinated and protected, owing to the fact that the vaccines triggers an immune response that will protect your body against the virus if encountered.

“Please note that taking the vaccine will not only protect you, it will protect your loved ones and community members against the COVID-19 disease as we worked towards developing health immunity.

“There currently seems to be growing vaccines hesitancy and this is largely caused by misinformation leading to mistrust, doubts,suspicions and conspiracy theories. We urged the public to disregard such representation from unverified sources and listen to the medical experts for confirmed information.

“It is important to note that vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, are manufactured under strict compliance with WHO guidelines. Therefore, COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any harmful substance, microchip and does not alter human genetic information.

“Furthermore, any vaccine coming to Nigeria will be tested by NAFDAC and certified safe for human use before it is administered. We will like to assure all Nigerians that this verification exercise will also be applicable to the COVID-19 vaccine and NAFDAC will continue to monitor the efficacy of the vaccine even after its administration to ensure proper documentation of any side effects.

“I want to reiterate that the first set of vaccine is that of Pfizer-Biotech and NRA vaccines and the equipment that are required to store them, that is the ultra-cold chain equipment for storage, are available at the National Strategic Cold Store of National Primary Health Care Development Agency.

“We have over 2,100 litres capacity. The requirement for the 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines that will be available by the end of January/ February is 500 litres, so we have enough capacity for the 100,000 doses. “I make particular reference to those reports that claimed that we are going to waste the 100,000 doses because we do not have any ultra-cold chain equipment.

“Pfizer has also informed us that the COVID- 19 vaccine can be stored for five days at plus two to eight degrees outside of ultra-cold chain, which is suitable, especially at low level. This means that the ultra-cold chain storage is only required at the national level and six zonal stores where the vaccines can be stored for longer period, the vaccines then will be transferred to lower levels using dry ices in isolated dry thermals when they are ready to be deployed.

“I want to emphasise that the PTF, Ministry of Health intend to invest too heavily in the ultra-cold chain equipment because of the logistical challenges. We already have thousands of refrigerators and freezers that we use for our routine immunization vaccines available all over Nigeria.”

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