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FG spends N122bn on 29m doses of J&J vaccines –Health Minister

…says govt not considering fresh lockdown

In order to further combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in the country, the Federal Government has ordered the procurement of 40 million doses of Johnson and Johnson COVID- 19vaccines at the cost of $298.5 million (about N122 billion). Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, made this disclosure yesterday at a Ministerial Briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa. The minister, who disclosed that the government had received the first batch of 176,000 doses of the vaccines, added that the second batch of inoculation, which was suspended last week, would unfailingly commence on Monday.

Ehanire explained that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which is single dose as opposed to the AstraZeneca variant earlier administered, would be administered on itinerant workers who may not be available for double doses and those in the riverine areas. The minister alerted that there have been reports that some unscrupulous persons have been faking the vaccines in some other countries just as he cautioned the people against patronage of unofficial channels for their COVID-19 jabs.

Responding to a question on what the government was doing to address the issue of the striking doctors in the country, the minister lamented that Nigeria remains the only country in the world where doctors were embarking on strikes in the middle of a national health emergency. While pleading with the striking doctors to return to work and embrace negotiation, Ehanire said the government’s threat to invoke ‘No work, no pay’ doctrine was legal and consistent with the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s recommendation. The minister explained that the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) ought not to have called a national strike since the majority of their demands have to do with their disagreements with state governments. According to him, few of their grouses with the federal government could be amicably negotiated and settled.

He said: “Among the 12 original demands that they made, seven were state related. They’re not federal. Federal cannot compel a state to pay you a certain salary that you want. But the ones that are concerning us at the federal level, many of them are not even exactly the Ministry of Health’s brief either. But we support them and that strike is not a good tool to use especially when the health of the people is threatened.” Responding to a question on whether the government was considering another lockdown due to the third wave of COVID- 19, the minister said such would be the last measure because doing so would stifle the economy and restrict people’s freedom. He added that the initial lockdown ordered by the government taught them a lot of lessons and the government would not want to do that again.

 

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