By A’isha Biola Raji
The Federal Government has given the Nigeria Customs Services and the National Agency for Food Drugs and Administration Control (NAFDAC) authority to seize and destroy unauthorised vaccines.
Government gave this order while it ruled out private sector participation in the vaccination of Nigeria’s allocation of four million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines expected today (Tuesday).
The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora made this call Monday at a media briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19. The minister also raised alarm of possible third wave if Nigerians failed to adhere to the non-pharmaceutical measures put in place by government.
According to him, all manufacturers of vaccines require an official authentication to be able to use their product, and government won’t be signing indemnity for what it cannot defend.
The minister said, “As the much expected first batch of COVID vaccines from the COVAX facility arrives from Mumbai to Nigeria tomorrow, all plans and arrangements have been finalised to ensure a hitch free rollout of vaccination, including training of health workers, secured logistics and cold chain equipment to receive vaccines in all wards of the federation.
“The vaccines will be received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport and delivered to the National Strategic Cold Store (NSCS), Abuja, where inspection and quality tests will be conducted by NAFDAC and due documentation and certification done.
“We shall begin the roll out with the vaccination of frontline health workers who are our first line of defence. Our goal is to introduce the COVID-19 vaccine in a phased and equitable manner, ultimately vaccinating all eligible Nigerians within the next two years to ensure herd immunity. World Health Organization recommendation is not to vaccinate persons under 18 years of age, until more scientific data is available on any effects on growing children.
“The TEACH Strategy of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) for COVID-19 vaccination and the Electronic Management of Immunization Data System was launched today. The innovative strategy will enable a smooth roll out of vaccination and ensure that no beneficiary is left behind.
“It is important to mention that Nigeria is expecting enough vaccines of three types, to cater to our needs, with the option to increase supply if need be. There will, for now, be no need for ungoverned private importation of vaccines. Vaccine deployment will be by NPHCDA, till further notice and I can assure all citizens that they are in a position to cater to the needs of all persons, as in the rollout strategy, but also able to respond to institutions, clusters and settings, including closed settings like prisons and IDPs, with deployment of NPHCDA vaccination teams. This is upon application and special arrangements.
“All manufacturers of vaccines require an official indemnification to be able to use their product, which Nigeria has provided for the Covax facility. Vaccines from any other sources must first have NAFDAC’s Emergency Use Authorization, and are not covered under the indemnification arrangement. Such vaccines will be illegal and therefore subject to be impounded by NAFDAC and Customs.
All vaccines coming into Nigeria will arrive only by the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja. Arrival at any other airport will not be allowed and sure to be confiscated by Customs. It is important to have an orderly, disciplined rollout to avoid chaos in the immunization scene.
“I urge all eligible Nigerians to turn up when invited to be vaccinated with covid-19 vaccine. This is the way to achieve our target of herd immunity and end the transmission of this deadly virus.
“I again advise that rollout of vaccination does not end or excuse from observing the public health measures. They should be obeyed even more strictly than before, as there is no room for relaxing, even if it seems the infection rate is reducing. There are countries experiencing the third wave, after surviving the second phase, a reason for us to beware.”
The Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha described the arrival of the vaccines as a ray of hope.
He said, “This development offers a huge ray of hope that comes with its own challenges and responsibilities for all Nigerians. We must all be prepared to take responsibility.
The COVAX Facility is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), with UNICEF as a key implementing partner.
The COVAX was launched in April 2020, to help ensure a fairer distribution of Coronavirus vaccines between rich and poor nations, with objective to deliver two billion doses to its members by the end of 2021.
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