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FG releases N10b for COVID-19 vaccine production

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Osagie Ehanire

• Says vaccines will arrive soon
The Federal Government has announced the release N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, made the disclosure during a briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 yesterday in Abuja.

He also announced that the first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines would arrive the country in few weeks.

The N10 billion for local vaccine production, he explained, was released by the Ministry of Finance and would be used to explore “options for licensed production in collaboration with recognised institutions.”

On importation of vaccines, he said Nigeria had requested 10 million doses of the injection, which could be supplied from March.

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Preparing COVID-19 vaccine, he explained, required that countries determine criteria for prioritisation, develop robust vaccine distribution strategy and identify vaccine administration sites and teams, and that countries develop procurement, supply chain and distribution plan for commodities and devices, as well as a sustainability plan.

“These we are already working on to be ready when the vaccines arrive,” he said.

The minister said Nigeria was exploring options for the acquisition of approved vaccines, adding Nigeria is participating in the African Union initiative called “African Vaccine Availability Task Team”, which reports directly to the African Union Chairman, President Ramaphosa of South Africa, and has secured 270 million doses of various types of vaccines.

He added: “Bearing in mind options suitable for our environment and the available infrastructure, as well as Investment in delivery, we shall engage other FMOH agencies, especially NAFDAC and NCDC, state governments, religious, traditional and community leaders, in plans for vaccines distribution, since their role is critical to the orderly and successful deployment of vaccines. We must be able to reach all those eligible to receive the vaccines.

Ehanire observed that while working to develop indigenous vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production in collaboration with recognised institutions.

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He said: “While the prospect of a vaccine arriving soon is cheering, the importance of non-pharmaceutical measures remain critical to prevent infections. The ministry will hold a national vaccine conference, as part of our preparations, to mobilise experts, role players, development partners and stakeholders to create a unified and strategic front for the provision and vaccination of Nigerians against COVID 19. The conference will also provide a platform for deliberation on our COVID-19 response strategy, especially at this time of spike in cases.”

EARLIER in his remark, the Chairman of PTF and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said that schools that had resumed did so in defiance of the fact that the task force announced that the resumption of schools nationwide would be reviewed due to rising daily numbers of infections and the challenges of case management.

In a tacit approval for the resumption, PTF, therefore, said it recommended very strict adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions by states to avoid the escalation of cases.

Mustapha noted that South Africa and Nigeria had continued to report highest daily count in Africa while South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Algeria and Kenya account for 76 per cent of all cases in the region.

He observed that Nigeria has moved up to third position in highest cumulative case load but remains second for new cases and fifth highest in cumulative deaths on the WHO African region.

According to him, testing has become more significant in the national response and state governments should enable their EOCs to step up sample collection and to maximise the capacities of the PCR laboratories already in their states.

Boss Mustapha stated that the Federal Government had released funds for the rehabilitation of existing oxygen facilities in various institutions, adding that the PTF has authorized the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to immediately implement the 450 tests per LGA plan, nationwide, immediately.

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