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COVID-19: FG guided by safety, transparency in mass vaccination — Minister

The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), has says it is guided by principles of safety, efficacy, transparency and accountability in the COVID-19 mass vaccination campaign in the country.

Osagie Ehanire

The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), has says it is guided by principles of safety, efficacy, transparency and accountability in the COVID-19 mass vaccination campaign in the country.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, gave the assurance on Monday in Abuja.

Ehanire spoke at the launch of the SCALES 3.0 strategy for COVID-19 vaccination in the country organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that in November 2021, NPHCDA, introduced the SCALES strategy to rapidly increase COVID-19 vaccine coverage.

It was designed to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines outside the health facility.

The SCALES is an acronym for Service-delivery, Communication, Accountability, Logistics, Electronic reporting, and supportive Supervision for the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination.

Mass vaccination sites were established at all public places such as markets, parks, shopping malls, schools, mosques, and churches.

Although the government said that the strategy has proven to be effective in shoring up COVID-19 vaccination coverage, the proportion of fully vaccinated Nigerians is still low.

This is partly because the country is using two-dose vaccines.

Most Nigerians are reluctant to take their second dose for various reasons including fear of a repeat of the mild side effects they may have experienced with the first dose.

The SCALES strategy is using COVID-19 vaccination structures and resources to improve Routine Immunization (RI) coverage, with improved efficiency and reduced duplication of efforts by health care workers.

This is to ensure that controlling the transmission of COVID-19 does not become a fertile ground for the outbreak of childhood vaccine-preventable diseases.

It became imperative for the government to launch the SCALES 2.0 Strategy.

It entails the integration of COVID-19 vaccination with childhood routine Immunisation for eligible adults and children, leveraging mass vaccination campaigns, routine immunisation fixed sessions, outreach services and Mobile services.

The SCALES 2.0 was aimed at providing an opportunity for the single dose COVID-19 vaccine to be rolled out in the states.

The SCALES 3.0 strategy is an intensive campaign focused on ramping up uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, childhood vaccines and other primary health care services at public and private health facilities.

According to Ehanire, no vaccine will be allowed to enter any vaccination site without due authentication and safety verification.

He said that the government would never compromise on vaccine safety and vaccination standards.

“Let me assure all Nigerians that the Federal Government remains committed to the provision of safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines in the country backed with accountability and transparency.

“Every COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria is tracked by National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), to ensure quality and potency across the supply chain,” he said.

The minister said that the campaign can only succeed if there was mass mobilisation of Nigerians.

“We are therefore calling on state governors, local governments chairmen, traditional and religious leaders, the media, and every Nigerian to lend their support in mobilising the unvaccinated eligible individuals.

“They should register and get vaccinated or walk into the nearest vaccination centres and get vaccinated.

“However, total performance still falls short of our desire, because as of Wednesday, only 24.4 per cent of eligible population had been fully vaccinated.

“Only three states: Nasarawa, Jigawa and Kano have a vaccination coverage of over 50 per cent, leaving 34 states performing sub-optimally in vaccination coverage,” he said.

The minister added that there was need for the team to refine the current SCALES 2.0 strategy to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination.

He advised them to identify enablers that were unique to each state and deploy them as state-specific strategies to be termed, “SCALES 3.0.

“The strategy will be anchored on an intensive three months campaign,” he said.

Ehanire said that the strategy was poised to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and gain the desired herd immunity as quickly as possible.

“While we are glad that Nigeria is ranked among the high-performing countries in terms of COVID-19 vaccine roll out, we cannot but acknowledge the fact that we still have a lot of work to do.

“Taking the COVID-19 vaccine is not just an act of self-protection, but also a civic duty to curtail the spread of the virus.

“Every one of us has a critical role to play in the effort to stop the virus from spreading.

“I, therefore, urge you to get vaccinated and ensure every eligible person around you is vaccinated,” he urged.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said all of the COVID-19 vaccines administered in the country were safe.

Shuaib said that 25 million eligible Nigerians had received their full doses and 40 million had received at least a single dose.

According to him, ”that is enough evidence of the safety of the vaccine.”

Shuaib urged Nigerians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying, ”it is the best way to avoid severe infection and the risk of spreading to others.”

NAN recalls that more than 12.4 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered worldwide, a gain of 100 million, with the world’s population of 7.9 billion, according to Bloomberg tracking.

China leads with 3.4 billion doses administered and a 92.4 per cent one-shot vaccination rate among the 1.5 billion population, the most in the world.

India is second with 2 billion among the 1.4 billion population and a 74.1 per cent.

Broken down by world regions, Asia-Pacific, Latin American and U.S.-Canada have administered at least one dose to 80 per cent of the population.

Europe is at 69 per cent, Middle East at 57 per cent and Africa at 26 per cent, according to the New York Times tracking.

NAN reports that as at Monday, Nigeria’s total confirmed infections were 261,885, 255,481 discharged and 3,147 deaths.