The Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, has warned Nigerians against complacency in containing the COVID-19 pandemic as vaccines may not arrive the country as soon as expected.
He made this known while speaking at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing on Thursday.
Represented by the Director, Hospital Services, Federal Ministry of Health, Adebimpe Adebiyi, he said the government is working hard to get the approved vaccines to fight the virus.
“We are working very hard to get vaccines for our people. It may not come soon enough, therefore we need to be alive to get the vaccines when they come,” he said.
He said this is to underscore the importance of compliance with non-pharmaceutical measures as advised to reduce transmissibility of the virus.
Although Mr Mamora said the vaccines may not come soon, the Nigerian government earlier said the country will receive at least 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of January.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said a letter announcing this allocation in the first phase of the delivery of the vaccines is expected from the COVAX facility during the week.
“In the first phase through the COVAX facility, we expect to receive approximately 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and bioNtech vaccine by the end of January,” he said.
Mr Shuaib also said the country is expecting ‘free’ 42 million doses of vaccines in the second phase through the COVAX facility, an initiative run by the vaccine alliance, GAVI, to ensure equitable access to a COVID vaccine.
He said the second phase will be “a combination of all the available approved vaccines currently in the market.”
He, however, said these vaccines will cover only about 20 per cent of Nigeria’s over 200 million estimated population.
Amidst the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, many countries are already on the queue to access effective vaccines for citizens.
The Nigerian government had earlier inaugurated an 18-member national COVID-19 task team to ensure ‘vaccine security’ when it finally gets to the country.
Despite these efforts, health experts and bodies recently told PREMIUM TIMES it is “almost impossible” for Nigeria to start a vaccine campaign in January.
Evidence on the ground at the country’s National Strategic Cold Store also suggest that Africa’s most populous country may not be fully ready to receive and administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
There are no ultra-cold freezers needed to store some of the frontrunners such as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, according to Iyabo Daradara, Director, Logistics and Health Commodities at the NPHCDA.
At the briefing, chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha said some Nigerians “are still doubting the virulent nature of the coronavirus pandemic”.
“The share level of doubts about the virus is alarming and I call on everyone to become advocates in support of the National Response,” Mr Mustapha said.
He said efforts are ongoing to ensure more Nigerians are well informed of the risks associated with the virus.
Mr Mustapha also noted that the government is reviewing its strategies to tackle COVID-19 pandemic, especially in risk communication, vaccine hesitancy, and fake news.
He said the PTF will intensify the risk communication and community engagement and create more awareness.