Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said that the country will take delivery of 10 million COVID-19 viral vector vaccines by March this year. This came as the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, equally said that the outbreak of coronavirus offered opportunities for the improvement of healthcare delivery in the country.
Speaking at a virtual meeting chaired by the vice president with top government officials and a group of Nigerian scientists who have been working on some of the public health dimensions of the pandemic, Ehanire said the 10 million doses is aside the 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine being expected in the country.
Ehanire noted that the Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with other stakeholders, had already put in place mechanisms for the management of the vaccines, but emphasized that the Federal Government was encouraging the use of IVERMECTIN, while expecting more research done on the prophylactic use of the medication.
Osinbajo, in his comments, stressed that the pandemic provided an opportunity to ramp up public health infrastructure in Nigeria, including the training of required experts. He said: “We are at a point where we can gain tremendously as a people from this pandemic and a lot of what has been said will really help in putting this in perspective for us as government, so, we can actually go out and resolve many of these problems and improve the environment for ourselves and for the coming generations in particular.”
Acknowledging the significance of the interaction with the scientists, especially in providing valuable suggestions in addressing the country’s public health challenges, the vice president noted that the interaction has been inspiring because it was evident that experts, directly or indirectly, were paying attention, not just to an unfolding public health problem, but also the very many opportunities that the problem provided for the country to ramp up her public health capacities in various ways.
“I think that we must focus on those opportunities and make the best of this situation,” he stressed. Earlier in his presentation, Nigeria’s leading virologist, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, emphasized the need for authorities across different levels to leverage the opportunities created by COVID-19 to overhaul the country’s entire health system, noting that “we cannot let this pandemic go without starting the production of vaccines here in Nigeria.”
Stating his desire to help authorities resolve lingering issues in public health management, the renowned virologist noted that he has benefited so much from the country, hence his love and desire to see a better society. Commending the efforts of Nigerian scientists, especially in proffering solutions to the management of the pandemic, the Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said there was need for the strengthening of enforcement of COVID-19 protocols, calling on state governments to work more closely with the Federal Government. He also assured that public testing was available for free to Nigerians.
On his part, the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, disclosed that in ramping up testing across the country, NCDC has adopted rapid testing. Ihekweazu said rapid testing was deployed for the last orientation programme of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
He said NCDC, in collaboration with stakeholders, was currently working on building the capacity of medical personnel across the country as part of measures adopted by the Federal Government to boost the country’s infectious disease response capabilities. Those at the virtual session, which focused on Nigeria’s response and the management of COVID-19, were Infectious diseases scientist, Prof. Philip Onyebujoh and the Director, African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), Redeemer’s University, Prof. Christian Happi.