The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has said that four million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine would soon be delivered to the country. This came as government offered to take responsibility for any negative effects of the vaccine on the people when administered.
The PTF also observed that the rate of infection of the second wave of the disease has begun to decline, but warned against complacency. PTF chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, made these disclosures at a media briefing in Abuja yesterday.
He said: “The PTF has been assured that Nigeria shall receive the initial four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine very soon and Nigerians will be adequately informed on developments. “The multi-sectoral machinery will be deployed to enhance the logistics to the “last-mile administration” processes that have been put in place. This will involve community mobilization, training, transportation, storage, operations, etc. The real work involves every sub-national entities, the communities, the citizens, and the civil societies.”
According to him, notwithstanding the milestone approval, the PTF recommended the need to continue to take responsibility by observing all the non-pharmaceutical measures.
“Vaccines remain critical in the battle, but we must remain well informed because of the intense transmission which is putting enormous pressure on the hospitals, intensive care units and health workers in our different communities. Let me state that decisions made by leaders and citizens will determine the level of our success in tackling the acute phase,” he stressed.
Commenting on the reduction of infection globally, Mustapha, who cautioned against complacency, said: “In terms of numbers, statistics show that global cases and deaths have continued to decline.
Most countries have registered significant declines in cases, but amongst the top 5, the decline in Brazil is still minimal. The African Region has shown high decline and South Africa continues to record a sustained daily decline in cases.”
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, in his remarks, said available records show that there is a global decline in cases of COVID-19 and deaths. He said: “This trend in reduction compares with global observations of seeming decline in COVID -19 cases, signifying that the second wave may be receding.
“We are, however, not drawing conclusions yet and certainly not declaring victory, but rather watching developments as they unfold nationally and internationally, ready to make use of comparative advantages that may emerge.” Despite recording 152,074 COVID-19 cases out of 1,489,103 tests and sadly losing 1,839 persons to the disease, the minister stated that sustained testing in states has decreased positive rate as at 21st of February.
He, however, disclosed that the ministry would intensify monitoring of positive cases, especially those that can self-isolate, by strengthening and improving the capacity of personnel, to manage home-based care.
He emphasized that those on home-based care should report to their hospital or case manager, immediately they begin to experience symptoms, or feel their symptoms are getting worse.
“Experience has shown that COVID-19 disease can deteriorate suddenly and rapidly, resulting in life threatening severity, that could be managed if presenting early enough.
Late presentation is a leading of increase in mortality,” he said. He disclosed that findings from Supportive Supervision of treatment centres indicated that vulnerable and “at risk” persons, were among those reluctant to accept hospital admission, especially if they have no severe symptoms, but counselled that it was important to follow medical advice and comply with directives.
The minister added that the bed occupancy at the isolation and treatment centres was about 36%, indicating sufficient bed spaces to comfortably accommodate patients with government readiness to redistribute from heavy burden to lower burden hospitals, if the need arose.
He disclosed that oxygen requirement at some hospitals have been increased, especially at the Lagos Teaching Hospital (LASU). He testified that the NAFDAC had issued Emergency Use Authorization for AstraZeneca vaccine by Serum Institute of India, which has been forwarded to the COVAX facility secretariat. “I have also issued the required indemnification on behalf of the Government of Nigeria, which clears the way for delivery of the first set of this vaccine around the end of this month,” he disclosed.
According to him, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has made detailed preparation to hit the ground running and commence immunization as soon as the vaccines are delivered by COVAX. The minister said there were reports of an offer of 300 million doses of Sputnik V vaccines to the AVATT portfolio, which boosts availability to 557 million.
“This would be a great relief to the African region and also increase the variety of vaccines to four,” he said. The minister, however, warned against counterfeit vaccines just as he cautioned the people against getting vaccines from the private importers. He added that no vaccine would be allowed into the country unless it was certified by NAFDAC. “
The need to involve the private sector in dispensing vaccines will be studied by the vaccine coordinating committee and NPHCDA, who have the mandate to administer vaccines in Nigeria. “We must, however, remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is not an ordinary routine vaccine, but an unfamiliar, novel vaccine with properties that are still being studied.
“There may be effects during their administration, for which government must issue indemnification and take responsibility, which will not cover vaccines imported or administered privately, outside of legal framework.
“We applaud moves to support COVID-19 vaccine financing by the Nigerian private sector, which will be exclusively channelled through the account Nigeria has opened with the Afrexim Bank in Addis Ababa,” he said.
Ehanire said that the government was closely monitoring the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Guinea and working with West African Health Organization (WAHO) to contain it and prevent the spread to other countries in the region.