Nigeria to Take Delivery of COVID-19 Vaccines in coming weeks as New Coronavirus Strains Emerge Spreads

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In the just concluded week, the Federal Government, on Wednesday, stated that President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, would be among the first set of Nigerians to be administered with COVID-19 vaccines when the first batch, consisting of 100,000 doses, arrives by the end of January.

According to the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, plans were underway to secure 42 million COVID-19 vaccines to cover one fifth of its population through the global COVAX scheme.

Dr. Faisal stated Nigeria’s plan to inoculate 40 per cent of its population this year and another 30 per cent in 2022. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom recently experienced the outbreak of a new aggressive strain of the Coronavirus, which UK health authorities claim to be seventy per cent more contagious than the original strain, and has enforced another lock down.

Also, Chinese authorities reportedly sealed off two cities in Hebei province which is to the south of Beijing –Shijiazhuang and Xingtai –, restricted movement in and out of the cities boasting a population of several millions.

These measures were taken in order to stem another outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic which first broke out in Wuhan, late 2019, from where it spread to the rest of the world.

It was also reported that Hebei province had seen 127 new Covid-19 cases, believed to be a new strain of the virus, and an additional 183 asymptomatic infections, in the past week.

We commend the Federal Government’s assiduous efforts at managing the public health crisis caused by the pandemic.

However, the emergence of a mutated strain of the Corona Virus is a worrying development and it remains to be seen whether the available Coronavirus vaccine will be efficacious against it.

We also commend the government’s short to medium term plans to procure vaccines, but do not think it is a silver bullet against the pandemic. The economics of procuringand administering vaccines on a wide scale may not be viable given Nigeria’s population size, available resources and lack of basic infrastructure.

Rather, we expect a more holistic approach that involves improved capacity at primary healthcare levels,increased testing facilities, proper functioning of isolation and treatment centres, steady supply of medicines and medical equipment and prioritizing the safety of healthcare workers as they manage cases.

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