By Rakiya A. Muhammad
As Nigeria gears up for the rollout of COVID-19, vaccines, there are heightened calls on stakeholders across different sectors to ensure a united front to beat the virus.
According to the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Nigeria expects about 16 million doses of AZ from COVAX facility and about two million doses of Pfizer mRNA from AU in the first quarter of 2021 (Phase 1) NPHCDA.
In a message to the agency’s engagement with National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) on COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria, the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, Dr Faisal Shuaib said they want to introduce it in Nigeria to prevent any more people from dying.
He recognised the roles of women journalists as mothers and mothers to be. NAWOJ members, he pointed out, have that dual role as being people who put the message out there and being mothers who sustain life.
Shuaib appreciated and applauded journalists’ efforts in ensuring that COVID-19 survivors are not stigmatised and urging people to stay safe and observe all the protocols.
Ahmed Rufai Garba of NPHCDA shed more light on the proposed vaccine introduction. He said the primary aim was to slow down and interrupt transmission of COVID-19 outbreak in all parts of the country.
“The Federal Ministry of Health through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, National Centre for Disease Control, NAFDAC and development partners is planning to procure and ensure timely vaccination of Nigerians at risk of the COVID-19 disease,” he stated.
He explained that for low -and middle-income countries such as Nigeria, the COVAX Advance Marketing Commitment, a financing instrument within the COVAX facility (through Gavi) aims to improve access to affordable supply, and programmatic support for procurement and campaigns.
Allaying fears over COVID-19 vaccines’ safety, Dr Usman Adamu said NPHDCA is working in tandem with NAFDAC to scrutinise every vaccine that comes into the country.
“NAFDAC is equal to the task. The technical is going to be scrutinized rigorously by NAFDAC to ensure every component of the dossier is checked before we allow the vaccine to be applied on Nigerans.”
Dr Adamu underscored journalists’ role in debunking conspiracy theories and sensitising the populace on the Infection Precevntion and Control measures.
He urged them to monitor the measures and advise the government on measures to ensure compliance.
COVID-19 vaccine targets
PRIORITY LIST FOR INITIAL VACCINE DOSES
Nigeria would administer the COVID-19 vaccine in phases with frontline Health workers as priority 1, Ahmed Rufai Garba disclosed.
Statistics show Nigeria has Health Care Workers COVID-19 infection percentage of 3.5%.
“Targeted persons prioritised for Phase 1 vaccines will be pre-listed/documented to allow for proper scheduling, allocation of vaccines and follow-up as part of the pharmacovigilance and safety monitoring
process expected for new vaccines,” he highlighted.
Depending on the doses received, Garba added, they would prioritise additional persons 50 years and above.
NIGERIA’S CAPACITY FOR STORAGE
National Strategic Cold Store NSCS has three Ultra-Cold Chain (UCC) freezers with an average capacity of 678 litres per equipment and can store over 400,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccines at a
temperature of -60 to -80 degrees centigrade, according to the NPHCDA official.
He added that there are two units of the UCC in Bauchi state cold store and 1 unit of the UCC in Lagos and that the Federal Government of Nigeria is in the process of deploying six additional UCC OF 678 litres capacity in each of the six zonal cold stores at Lagos, Kano, Minna, Bauchi, Enugu and Warri within the next two to three weeks.
Garba assured that there are already pre-positioned vaccine delivery cold vans that have been outsourced to private vaccine distributors to the last mile.
GHLI General and Health Logistics International and FENLAB, a leading provider of medical cold chain solution, according to him, have enough specialised fleet to deliver to all the zones in the country.
“Cold chain is not just at the national level; we have at zonal six, state and local government levels. In terms of the vaccination, the special teams that would need to move there; what we call the reverse cold chain,” he explained.
“We have already started the arrangement for dry ice; dry ice would keep the vaccine at that -70, -60 when you use a set of dry ice, you could use it for five days.”
He harped on need for Nigerians to allay their fears on the issue of vaccine storage.” we have taken care of all that, our dry ice will take care of that. If we keep the vaccine in a remote community, our dry ice will hold it.”
Shedding more light on it, Garba stated,”: The science around vaccine is already there, when a vaccine is brought out, it is reconstituted which will be for the COVAX vaccine. We would even write the timing that we constitute, and we start, six hours after, that vaccine cannot be used.”
Risk communication strategist Eunice Damisa revealed NPHCDA’s plans to use existing community structures for COVID-19 risk communication at grassroots.
She added they would embark on house- to -house visits to disseminate critical messages on COVID-19 vaccine, IPC, and distribution of translated printed materials.
Damisa expressed joy that from an analysis of comments from the Twitter posts on January 14th poll and February 4 poll, acceptability of COVID-19 vaccination improved from 30 per cent in January to 50 per cent in February.
However, she said they would conduct community polling to determine public perception of COVID-19 vaccine; to assess general knowledge of COVID-19 vaccine and evaluate the level of public acceptance of COVID-19 vaccine.
NAWOJ AS CRITICAL STAKEHOLDER
President National Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ Ladi Bala noted with concern lots of misconception about COVID-19, and lauded NPHCDA’s efforts at addressing the issues surrounding it.
She commended the agency for considering NAWOJ as a critical stakeholder in looking at how best to create more awareness and educate Nigerians about the novel virus.
“I find this engagement very interesting. This is our core call; constitutionally, we have the responsibility to mobilise the society for positive goal, especially the project Nigeria, so NAWOJ is pleased to be on board. We are partners in progress.”
She observed that despite that COVID-19 has claimed many lives in Nigeria, ignorance still exists on COVID-19.
“Some Nigerians do not still believe that it is real, they still feel that the Nigerian government is being political about the situation, but we know that that is not the situation,” she pointed out.
“I do not see any government that would bring anything that would harm its citizenry. I know the efforts of the Federal Government and Primary Health care Development Agency are towards safeguarding the health of Nigerians.”
She recommended: “What to do collectively is to create that intensive awareness that would galvanise the entire society and mobilise Nigerians to see that whatever the government is doing is in their interest.”
The President pledged her association’s readiness to collaborate with the agency to intensify the vaccine’s sensitisation towards ensuring Nigerians are at home with it.
“We, as members of the Nigerian Association of Women Journalists, would collaborate with the agency. Our work this time around would go far beyond reporting the issue, but also engaging other critical stakeholders in Nigeria for them to speak out more on the efficacy of the vaccine.”