By Busayo Onijala (Lagos)/Abujah Racheal (Abuja) March 2, 2021
Nigeria, on Tuesday received 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and shipped via the COVAX Facility.
The United Nations (UN) system in Nigeria made this known in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
This is as it has been announced that President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo will pick dates on which they will be vaccinated publicly, with this first batch of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.
The Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this at the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 briefing on Monday in Abuja.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF, the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers and others.
The UN system said the arrival marked a historic step towards the goal to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what would be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.
It said the delivery was part of a first wave of arrivals in Nigeria that would continue in the coming days and weeks.
Edward Kallon, UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, reiterated the commitment of the UN to support the vaccination campaign in the country and help contain the spread of the virus.
“The arrival of these vaccines in Abuja today marks a milestone for the COVAX Facility in its unprecedented effort to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines globally by the end of 2021.
“The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine will enable the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to commence the vaccination of Nigerians in priority groups, starting with frontline healthcare workers,” he said.
Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director for Country Programmes at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said it was a landmark moment for Nigeria and the COVAX Facility’s mission to help end the acute phase of the pandemic by enabling equitable access to the vaccines across the world.
“We are glad to see Nigeria is among the first receiving the doses from COVAX, thanks to the excellent level of preparedness put in place by the Government of Nigeria.
“Gavi looks forward to these vaccines being made available to the people most at risk, as soon as possible, and to ensuring that routine immunisation services for other life-threatening infections are also delivered to avoid other disease outbreaks,” he said.
Also, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Representative in Nigeria, said it was heart-warming “to witness this epoch-making event.
“WHO wishes to congratulate the government of Nigeria for its participation in the global vaccine collaboration (COVAX) efforts and its commitment to protecting Nigerians against this pandemic.
“These vaccines have undergone rigorous regulatory processes at global and country level and have been deemed safe and effective,” Mulombo said.
According to him, vaccines are a critical new tool in the battle against COVID-19 and therefore, Nigeria’s participation is a step in the right direction.
Similarly, Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Country Representative, emphasised the importance of vaccines, adding that the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines into Nigeria was critical in curbing the pandemic.
“After a year of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, today we celebrate the efforts being made in getting the vaccine to Nigeria.
“With more than 150,000 Nigerians infected with the virus and over 1,800 lives lost, the path to recovery for the people of Nigeria can finally begin.
“This is a very significant occasion and the only way out of this crisis is to ensure that vaccinations are available to all,” Hawkins said.
The UN system in Nigeria said COVAX had built a diverse portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations and was on track to meet its goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021.
This, the UN said included at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX Facility participants supported by the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
The COVAX Facility is expected to deliver around 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the African region in the first quarter of 2021 and has committed to providing up to 600 million doses to the region by the end of 2021 to cover 20 per cent of the population.
Dr. Shuaib, the NPHCDA Executive Director, who disclosed the plan to vaccinate President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo publicly, said that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and chairman of the PTF on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, would liaise with other key strategic persons to fix the date for the public vaccination aimed at protecting Nigerians against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shuaib said: “I once again assure Nigerians that all necessary safety and quality control measures have been put in place for the arrival, storage and successful administration of the vaccines in the country. There is going to be a small ceremony, chaired by the Chairman of the PTF on COVID-19, to receive the vaccine at the VIP Protocol section, General Aviation Terminal of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
“At the end of the ceremonies to mark the arrival of the vaccines, a few vials of the vaccines would be handed over to the NAFDAC team for analysis over a period of two days (Wednesday March 3rd and Thursday March 4th).
“Further to the clearance by NAFDAC, the PTF, FMOH, NPHCDA and strategic leaders will be at the treatment center of the National Hospital on Friday March 5th 2021, where the first vaccination site will be set up to commence the vaccination of the frontline health workers and support staff. These Staff would also be electronically registered in the COVID-19 vaccine database and would receive their COVID-19 vaccination card which has a QR code that can be verified worldwide.
On Saturday, March 6th, Key Strategic leaders will receive the first dose of the vaccine.
“On Monday, March 8th, 2021, more vaccination sites would have been set up at designated locations such as National Assembly clinic, State House clinic and Federal medical centre, Jabi, where strategic leaders such as the SGF, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Attorney General of the Federation, Inspector General of Police, the Ministers and Ministers of States, Senators, House of Representatives members, traditional leaders and religious leaders would be vaccinated.
“After this launch and initial roll-out phase, Vaccine distribution to the States for the first phase vaccination process will begin. This phase is the vaccination of all frontline health workers, their supporting staff and strategic leaders. Deployment of vaccines to the States would be based on the assessment of their level of preparedness. Some of the parameters that would be used for the assessment include adequate maintenance of their cold chain storage facilities, adequate preparation for logistic transportation to the ward/ health facility, adequate security in place during transportation and at vaccination sites, completion of training of health workers, efficient social mobilization activities in place, adherence to protocol for vaccine deployment.
Working with CACOVID, plans are on ground for a cargo plane provided by them to transport the vaccines to the States by air. States without a functional airport will have their vaccines transported by road using vans with fitted Cold Cabins, from the nearest airport. The vaccines will be stored at the State Cold Stores, from where they will be transported by road to LGA Cold Stores
Once activities have commenced in the States, there would be strict monitoring by PTF, FMOH, NPHCDA and independent bodies such as EFCC, DSS, ICPC, and Civil Society Organizations. States/health facilities/health workers that are identified as defaulting from the standard protocol and guidelines for this phase of vaccination would be sanctioned.
“While the first phase is ongoing, the National team would be ready for the arrival of the next batch of vaccines which would be used for the next phase of vaccination. Phase 2 vaccination process involves vaccination of the elderly from 50 years and above. This has been sub grouped into 2, with the vaccination of 60 and above occurring first followed by 50 – 59 years. This will occur across all 36 States and the FCT. Those who are eligible for vaccination that have not registered electronically, would be assisted at the designated health facility and would be vaccinated.
“Phase 3 vaccination process involves vaccination of those between 18 and 49 years with co-morbidities (such as hypertension, diabetes, lung disease, other heart disease, liver or renal disease, etc). Individuals at ages 50 and above with co-morbidities would already have been Immunized within their age group.
The phase 4 vaccination process would involve vaccination of the rest of the eligible population between the ages 18 and 49 years. It is worthy to note that at each phase of vaccination, the level of preparedness of the States are assessed before vaccines are deployed and accountability measures have been put in place to ensure strict compliance to the vaccination process. Pregnant women will be evaluated by their health providers to weigh the benefit versus risk, before a decision is taken to vaccinate them.”
According to him, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, launched “our indigenous T.E.A.C.H strategy for COVID-19 vaccination and Electronic Management of Immunization Data system on Monday. This is to ensure safe and effective vaccination of prioritized and eligible Nigerians against COVID-19.
“Following the launching, through a unique link available on NPHCDA website, twitter handle, Facebook and Instagram, we have commenced electronic self-registration of health workers. This will enable us to avoid crowding at vaccination posts as the registered health workers will be scheduled and reminded of their vaccination date via sms and email.
He, however, urged all eligible Nigerians aged 18 years and above to be patient as they would eventually vaccinate them. As the vaccines arrive in batches due to limited supply, they would also inform Nigerians about who and where to receive the vaccine.
“A comprehensive and transparent roll-out plan that involves public vaccination of President Buhari and other important dignitaries and stakeholders has been developed. Again, this is to assure Nigerians on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines that we are bringing into the country,” he disclosed.