On Monday, 22nd of March, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, mentioned that Nigeria has, courtesy of its scientists, produced at least two local COVID-19 vaccines.
The vaccines are, by virtue of his testimony, currently awaiting clinical trials and certification before becoming useful in the fight against COVID-19.
Boss Mustapha cites this as a significant milestone for Nigeria in combating the coronavirus disease, and the research was a welcome development that would open a new vista in scientific breakthroughs and boost the morale and image of the medical industry in the country.
He, therefore, called on all relevant agencies to provide the required support and enabling environment for the smooth conduct of the remaining protocols for the certification of these vaccines with a view to encouraging and motivating other researchers.
Speaking further, he said that about a year ago, precisely on March 21, 2020, a total lockdown was declared by the government in some parts of the country due to the coronavirus pandemic and noted that the socio-economic impact on the country could not be underestimated.
He was quoted as saying:
“Many people lost their livelihood and many people lost loved ones. May their souls find rest with their maker.“Yesterday, again, Nigeria recorded the lowest number of cases so far this year.
“We have also seen a decline in cases in high burden countries around the African region.“This does not call for us to lower our guards as the virus is still potent and virulent.
“This is the right time to adhere to the full compliance of the NPIs and be vaccinated. Situations around the world now show some increase in cases, especially in the Americas, Europe, and the East Mediterranean regions, which suggests that they could be a third wave, further affirms that non-compliance with COVID-19 regulations and growing evidence of vaccine hesitancy could endanger millions of lives.”
He impressed that the Presidential Task Force was experiencing difficulty in sensitizing Nigerians to the efficacy of the vaccines being deployed.
Commenting on the efforts of donor agencies, he disclosed that on Sunday, March 21, 2021, the PTF received 300,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines from MTN Nigeria, which was acknowledged with thanks as other partners were encouraged to contribute towards the fight against COVID-19.
CONCERNS OVER COVID-19 VACCINES BLACKHANDING
Federal Government on Monday in Abuja raised concerns over reported racketeering of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines in some of the designated vaccination centers.
Mr. Abdullazzi Abdullahi, Permanent Secretary of Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health, spoke at the joint national briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
According to Abdullahi, the racketeering is not necessary as vaccination has been scheduled in phases such that frontline health workers and those at higher risk of the COVID-19 infection are to be vaccinated first, after registration at the portal.
“We have received reports of racketeering in some of the designated vaccination centers. 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,”
The permanent secretary also said that government met with the AstraZeneca group at the ministry and the meeting provided an opportunity for one-on-one clarification on the vaccines. He further added:
“We have not yet recorded unusual side effects among those who have received the vaccine which include 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.”
Mr. Abdullahi, while stating that there was a drop in the number of reported Covid-19 cases, said that the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria as of Monday morning was 161,737 from 1,727,467 samples tested with a test positivity rate of 9.4 percent.
He, however, also confirmed that Nigeria had recorded 2,030 deaths. He stated:
“In the last week, we have recorded a total of 1080 cases.“This is less than what was recorded daily during the second wave even with sustained testing.
While this is good, we shall not on account of this rest on our oars for it is still too early to do so.“We shall continue to sustain our testing rate to ensure that we identify, isolate and treat positive cases in the country.
This is necessary to avoid a third wave which some countries are presently experiencing,” he said.“In addition to this, we are sustaining distribution of available commodities, PPEs and consumables to ensure availability at all times for end users at treatment centers.
Evidence has shown improvement in management of cases as many gaps identified during the supervisory visits are being addressed. Some centers are operating in new and purpose-built isolation wards, while there’s an ongoing remodeling of some centers, improved workflow, better IPC practice and availability of better equipment such as oxygen concentrators, ventilators, among others,”
The arrival of the foreign vaccines has elicited mix reactions among Nigerians, with some believing it is the answer to avoiding more lockdowns, and a gradual restoration of regular operations, while some doubt the efficacy of the vaccines.
All necessary guidelines for receiving the vaccine, and reporting any strange side effects have however been laid out, and members of the general public are encouraged to embrace the vaccination process, which will hopefully be facilitated by the local Covid-19 vaccines.
By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi
Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.