Before the COVID-19 vaccination

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The Federal Government recently stipulated conditions which will be met by the state governments before they can access the 100,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine being expected in the country at the end of the month or early February. One of the conditions is that the vaccine will only be released to states that have cold chain and other storage facilities. The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -70 degrees centigrade.

The vaccine must also be administered within five days of receipt for it to remain potent. Only states with proven commitments to these prescriptions will likely receive the doses when the vaccine arrives. The conditions are in line with the approved vaccine protocols.

Under the vaccine arrangement, the federal government will take delivery of about 100,000 doses of the pfizer vaccine at the end of the month. According to the executive director, national primary healthcare development agency, faisal shuaib, the government will also later receive additional 43 million free doses of covid-19 vaccines and finally 165 million doses. The 100,000 doses will be administered to 50,000 nigerians twice at 21 days interval.

Although some medical experts expressed worry over lack of storage facilities for the vaccine, shuaib gave assurance that nigeria has enough facilities to store the expected covid-19 vaccine. Despite the assurance, we urge that every state must ensure that it has enough storage facilities for the vaccines as well as adequate arrangement for their transportation. They should meet the guidelines prescribed by the federal government. Nothing should be done to lower the conditions for accessing the vaccine. Since what is involved is a matter of life and death, care must be taken to ensure that they get it right. 

While we commend the government for the bold initiative to make the vaccine available to some nigerians, we think that the initial 100,000 package is not significant enough to make appreciable impact in curbing the spread of the pandemic. The government can, in the interim, liaise with other organisations to procure enough vaccines for nigerians as other advanced countries, such as united states and united kingdom, are presently doing.

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The government’s new resolve to spend n10 billion to support the local production of covid-19 vaccines is worthy of commendation. The minister of health, dr. Osagie ehanire, who disclosed this during the presidential task force media briefing in abuja said, the money would be used to explore “options for licensed production in collaboration with recognised institutions.”

The minister also explained that nigeria is part of the african union vaccine initiative known as “african vaccine availability task team,” which has secured about 270 million doses of some covid-19 vaccines. Apart from imported vaccines, the government should also expedite action towards ensuring local production of covid-19 vaccines instead of completely relying on other countries.

Therefore, indigenous pharmaceutical firms must be assisted to develop home-made covid-19 vaccines as china and russia have done. The local capacity for innovation and finding solutions to problems must not be stifled. In this period of vaccine nationalism, there is pride in the domestic production of our own covid-19 vaccines.

The government must also strive to prevent the circulation of fake covid-19 vaccines in the country. The director-general of the national agency for food, drug administration and control (nafdac), prof. Mojisola adeyeye, raised the alarm of the circulation of the fake vaccines during a webinar meeting with journalists. The nafdac boss used the occasion to warn nigerians to avoid using the vaccines because they could cause covid-like illnesses or other reactions that could lead to death. She also enjoined individuals and corporations against buying any vaccine not approved by nafdac and assured that the agency will track and trace the fake vaccines.

When the anticipated vaccines arrive, efforts should be made to ensure that they are administered to those that need them. On no account should unscrupulous government officials be allowed to hijack the vaccines for selfish reasons. Despite the prospect of having the vaccine, it is still advisable that nigerians must observe the stipulated non-medical covid-19 protocols, especially the washing of hands, wearing of face mask and social  distancing. 

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