If the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, which arrived Nigeria Tuesday passes the test by the Nigeria Agency for Drug and Food Administration, NAFDAC, vaccination will begin Friday.
According to Boss Mustapha, chairman of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 and secretary to the government of the Federation, SGF, who took delivery of the first batch of 3.92 million doses of the vaccine at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, NAFDAC has to certify the vaccines safe for Nigeria before administering it on Nigerians.
Mojisola Adeyeye, professor of Pharmaceutics/ Drug Product Evaluation, and director general of NAFDAC, confirmed that the agency had taken samples of the delivery for confirmatory test in their laboratory and the results would be out in two days. In principle, NAFDAC had already certified AstraZeneca safe for use in Nigeria before its arrival; the test is to determine whether what was shipped is the real vaccine and complete in all pharmaceutical dimensions.
Ahead of the administration, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHDA, the agency that would administer the vaccination across the country, said it is ready for a successful exercise. Nigeria is prioritizing healthcare and frontline workers. The Agency has set up an internet protocol for online self-registration for the vaccination, which makes it voluntary. People are required to fill in their details: name, address, occupation, state of residence, local government, ward, real or approximate age, and medical condition.
Faisal Shuaib, director of NPHDA, confirmed the authenticity of the portal. “Also, as part of preparations to ensure efficient and effective vaccination activities, a self e-registration link that will enable Nigerians to personally register themselves, obtain their pre-vaccination numbers, and schedule their preferred date/time for vaccination, has been created.”
When TELL accessed the online registration portal Tuesday, it was not functioning. The box for state of residence was inactive; and being inactive means that the boxes for local government and ward were inoperative, as it is the state that activates the LG and the LG activates the ward. We called the trouble shooting numbers NPHCDA provided. Behold they were probably scrambled, and so, permanently busy. The text message we sent to the numbers have not been responded to, 24 hours after.
“As the vaccines arrive in batches due to limited supply, we will inform Nigerians about who and where to receive the vaccine,” said Shuaib.
The Agency had trained 13, 000 healthcare workers in the effective handling, storage and administration of COVID-19 vaccines in February in readiness for administering the vaccines. Shuaib said another 100, 000 would be trained across the country in March
On the fate of those who leave in rural areas, he said, “States without a functional airport will have their vaccines transported by road using vans with fitted cold cabins, from the nearest airport.”
Nigeria is the third country in Africa, after Ghana and Ivory Coast, to receive the vaccines. Though owned by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, the vaccines were made by the Serum Institute of India. It is the first of 16 million doses that the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, COVAX, plans to deliver to Nigeria in coming months.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation, WHO tweeted Tuesday, confirming the delivery to Nigeria:
“Congratulations to #Nigeria 🇳🇬 and our #COVAX partners on making the third delivery of #COVID19 vaccines in Africa. We must #ACTogether to supply vaccines to all countries in the first 100 days of 2021. We have 39 days left to deliver on #VaccinEquity.”
Vaccine Equity is a programme formulated by WHO, to make sure that all countries have fair access to the vaccines for their citizens. According to WHO African Region, “This first COVID-19 vaccine shipment to Africa’s most populous nation marks a huge step towards #VaccinEquity.”
Angola received a batch of 624,000 doses from COVAX, after Nigeria, making it the fourth African country to take delivery of the vaccines. South Africa had stopped the 1.5 million doses it ordered when it was discovered that AstraZeneca was only 10 percent effective against the South African variant of COVID-19.
WHO strongly warns that the coronavirus crisis cannot end unless everyone can inoculate their populations. WHO, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) with UNICEF as implementing partner, make up the COVAX Facility.
Nigeria settled for the AstraZeneca vaccine because it is cheap and free of charge from COVA in the first instance. NPHCDA boss confirmed their capacity to handle it, “We already have the infrastructure across the country to be able to store the vaccines. In Nigeria, almost every single political ward has one freezer that can keep these vaccines at the right temperature. Only about 700 political wards do not have this type of equipment, and we are hopeful that if we keep installing them at the pace that we want to, hopefully by the end of this year, we will be able to finish installing so that in every single political ward, we have the right equipment to be able to store our routine immunization vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines at + 2 to +8 degree Celsius.”
Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, is confident that “We‘re closer to controlling this pandemic”.
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