COVID-19: FG, WHO Targets 20% Of Nigeria’s Population For Vaccination

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The federal government of Nigeria and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have said that COVID-19 vaccines will first be given to 20 per cent of the country’s most vulnerable population when ready.

The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said yesterday at a media briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, that the world body had entered into an agreement with over 186 countries on the funding and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also expressed the determination of Nigeria to get the vaccine, saying it’s a priority of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

At yesterday’s press briefing, the federal government also warned Nigerians against making non-essential travels to COVID-19 high-burdened countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil to mitigate the risk of worsening the spread of the virus in the country.

Mulombo, however, said an estimated $38 billion had been earmarked to support the development of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, adding that two-thirds of the amount has been mobilised while the remaining is being sourced.

He explained that under the principle agreed with the coalition working to promote development of COVID-19 vaccines, every subscribed country will get the vaccine to vaccinate 20 per cent of its most vulnerable population at the initial stage.

According to him, WHO believes that it is only by observing such a fair distribution of vaccines that the COVID-19 pandemic can be arrested.

“All the countries that subscribed understand that if there is any single country left out, it could be that country that will be the origin of another wave of infection.

“The facility needed for the vaccine development is estimated at about $38 billion and two-thirds of the amount is already mobilised while the remaining is also being sourced,” he stated.

While allaying fears of possible scramble for the COVID-19 vaccines and lack of access to poor economies, Mulombo said all the 186 countries had subscribed to the principle binding the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure fair distribution to all countries.

While providing an update on vaccine development, Mulombo said at present, there are over 200 vaccine candidates, out of which 47 have undergone clinical trials.

He said 10 of the vaccines have reached advanced stages in human trials, including the one being developed by Pfizer.

The Minster of State for Health, Senator Olunmibe Mamora, who presented an update on the COVID-19 pandemic at the briefing, corroborated Mulombo’s position, saying that Nigeria will ensure that 20 per cent of the vulnerable population are vaccinated as soon the first batch of the vaccine is ready.

On his part, the Director General of the Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said Nigeria is working with the WHO-led coalition to ensure that the country gets the vaccine as soon as they are ready.

He said the federal government was making efforts to increase the doses of vaccines allocation to Nigeria.

Ihekweazu added that the NCDC is commencing sensitisation to promote acceptability of the vaccine by the population so as to avoid resistance.

He also spoke about the challenges of logistics that is associated with distributing COVID-19 vaccines.

According to him, some of the vaccines would require a refrigerator with cooling capacity of -70 degrees and -80 degrees.

“We don’t know the type of vaccine we will eventually be going with, but the only vaccine available at the moment and for which the result has been announced will require minus 70 degrees and minus 80 degrees freezers,” he said.

He, however, stated that there are freezers of the required capacity to store the vaccines at the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja.

Ihekweazu further spoke on the recent outbreaks of Yellow fever and Lassa fever, saying that the country may witness an upsurge in cases of Lassa fever infection due to the dry season weather.

He blamed the resurgence of Yellow fever disease on the non-adherence to health advisories by citizens.

According to him, samples taken from Enugu and Delta states have tested positive for Yellow fever.

The federal government has advised Nigerians to avoid making non-essential travels to COVID-19 high burdened countries to mitigate the risk of reintroducing the virus to the country.

The Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, urged Nigerians planning to travel to pay attention to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, especially in those countries.

The PTF listed the countries aas the US, Brazil, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

Mustapha, at the press conference in Abuja, said the United States, India and Brazil accounted for 48 per cent of the world’s burden, which has crossed the 52 million mark.

He said the US has been recording over 100,000 cases daily in recent times while the rate of fatalities is increasing in the UK and other European countries.

“The PTF is still monitoring situations around the world and will continue to raise the flag so that Nigerians pay adequate attention to the situation. It will particularly help in planning to or not to, embark on trips. The candid advice of the PTF still remains that non-essential trips should be totally avoided,” he added.

He urged Nigerians to take responsibility to keep the nation safe by adhering to all COVID-19 preventive measures.

Mustapha described the testing rate in the country as discouraging as it is lower than Mauritius’, which has the highest tests per million (218,535). Nigeria stands at 3,605 per million.

Meanwhile, the federal government has announced it is making effort towards reopening Malam Aminu Kano Airport, Kano and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa for international flights.

The Director General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu, said during the PTF press briefing that when the two airports reopen for international flights, both the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja would be free of passenger pressure while passengers will find it much convenient getting to their destinations.

He said the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) is also striving to resolve the issue of ICT and port health services by getting adequate number of staff to run the two airports 24 hours a day.

He added that once those two items are taken care of, both Kano and Port Harcourt airports will resume operation.

Also, the PTF National Coordinator on COVID-19, Dr. Sanni Aliyu, said more than 12,500 corps members have been tested at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camps, using rapid diagnostic test and the PCR.

He also charged prospective corps members coming from outside the country to do the mandatory isolation for seven days before they report to camp.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also expressed the determination of Nigeria to get the vaccine, saying it’s a priority of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Osinbajo spoke yesterday at the opening session of the virtual edition of the Paris Peace Forum, which featured presentations by some heads of state and government alongside international organisations, on a collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said: “The priorities of Nigeria in the post-COVID-19 era include improved healthcare and the economy. First, we need to keep the virus under control. While our guards are still firmly in place, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a matter of utmost concern

“On this, we are encouraged by the efforts of WHO and other international agencies working to ensure that vaccine delivery will be equitable across all countries, regardless of the priority of orders and ability to pay.”

Speaking on the importance of prioritising interventions and investments in the healthcare system, the Osinbajo said: “We are encouraging private investment to upscale our health sector, with emphasis on improved facilities and affordable universal healthcare.”

He thanked world leaders for their prompt response and cooperation in controlling the spread of COVID-19, stressing that “the sheer scale of disruptions to our lives and livelihoods caused by COVID-19 certainly caught us all by surprise.”

“The pandemic underscores the need for adequate financial buffers to cope with the ‘black swan’ events. For many developing countries, the debt burden makes this all but impossible.

“We call for debt relief for these countries, and the extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) at least until the end of 2021 as well as commercial debt relief where needed,” he added.