COVID-19: Fake vaccines now in

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circulation, FG raises alarm

Nigeria to receive 4m doses of NAFDAC-certified AstraZeneca

By Omeiza Ajayi

ABUJA — The Federal Government has raised  alarm over the circulation of fake COVID-19 vaccines in the country, warning Nigerians of dangerous consequences should they resort to taking such uncertified jab.

It added that following the recent certification given by the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, for the use of AstraZeneca vaccines, Nigeria is set to receive four million doses of the vaccine, as part of efforts to stem the wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government also said preliminary evidence before it showed that the second wave of the pandemic is gradually easing out, but warned Nigerians against complacency

Speaking during Monday’s briefing of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19, Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, said the issue of vaccines continued to dominate discussions and major policy and financial decisions by various countries of the world. “As you are aware, NAFDAC, in the course of the week, granted emergency use authorization of AstraZeneca vaccines in Nigeria. This decision was reached after due process by the regulatory body.

“Despite this milestone approval, which will obviously be a game changer, the PTF wishes to underscore the need to continue to take responsibility by observing all the non-pharmaceutical measures

 

‘’Vaccines remain critical in the battle but we must remain well informed because of the intense transmission which is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers in our different communities. Let me state that decisions made by leaders and citizens will determine the level of our success in tackling the acute phase.

“The PTF has been assured that Nigeria shall receive the initial four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines very soon and Nigerians will be adequately informed on developments. The multi-sectoral machinery will be deployed to enhance the logistics to the ‘last-mile administration’ processes that have been put in place. This will involve community mobilization, training, transportation, storage, operations, etc. 

‘’The real work involves every sub-national entities, the communities, the citizens, and the civil societies. We crave your cooperation and support to achieve this. In terms of numbers, statistics show that global cases and deaths have continued to decline. Most countries have registered significant declines in cases but among the top five, the decline in Brazil is still minimal. 

‘’The African region has shown high decline and South Africa continues to record a sustained daily decline in cases,” Mustapha stated.

Fake vaccines

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on his part, said the federal government was in receipt of reports of fake COVID-19 vaccines in circulation. He said:  “Nigeria is aware of official reports of large scale fraud and counterfeit vaccines that are already in circulation. Since our vaccine needs for this year are virtually fully satisfied by multilateral and bilateral original manufacturer sources, the Ministry of Health does not, for now, intend to procure vaccines from private importers, and no vaccine will be allowed into the country unless they are certified by NAFDAC.

“The need to involve the private sector in dispensing vaccine will be studied by the vaccine coordinating committee and NPHCDA, who have the mandate to administer vaccines in Nigeria. 

‘’We must, however, remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is not an ordinary routine vaccine, but an unfamiliar, novel vaccine with properties that are still being studied. There may be effects during their administration, for which government must issue indemnification and take responsibility, which will not cover vaccines imported or administered privately, outside of legal framework. 

‘’We applaud private sector moves to support COVID-19 vaccine financing by the Nigerian private sector, which will be exclusively channelled through the account Nigeria has opened with the Afrexim Bank in Addis Ababa. We shall be happy to discuss the processes and terms further with members of CA-COVID.

“There are reports of an offer of 300million doses of Sputnik V vaccines to the AVATT portfolio, which boosts availability to 557million. This would be a great relief to the African region and also increases the variety of vaccines to four.  The vaccine coordination committee will advise on the best options for Nigeria, bearing salient factors in mind,” he said.

Ehanire said bed occupancy at the various treatment centres in the country has dropped to 36 percent, urging those who test positive and were vulnerable to heed the advise to be hospitalized. 

“Findings from supportive supervision of treatment centres also indicate that vulnerable and ‘at risk’ persons are among those reluctant to accept hospital admission, especially if they have no severe symptoms. 

‘’It is important to follow medical advice and comply with directives. The bed occupancy at our isolation and treatment centres is about 36 per cent, so there is sufficient bed space to comfortably accommodate patients and we stand ready to redistribute from heavy burden to lower burden hospitals, if the need arises,” he stated

According to him, Nigeria is closely observing developments on the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Guinea and working with the West African Health Organization, WAHO, to contain it in the outbreak country of Guinea and prevent the spread to other countries in the region.

He noted that ECOWAS countries adjacent to the epicenter were taking strict measures with regards to checking movement of persons, adding that Nigeria’s Port Health Service officers were on high alert to step up border surveillance of travellers arriving by air or overland from destinations around the outbreak country to avert disease importation.

He said though Nigeria was classified as a moderate Ebola risk country because of her distance from Guinea, health workers in Nigerian hospitals had also been put on alert to have a high index of suspicion.

“The population is, hereby, requested to report suspicious symptoms, including fever and bleeding in the community, among recent arrivals from  West Africa. I also use this opportunity to advise Nigerians intending to visit countries in the general area, to delay the visit, while WHO carries out support activities, including ring vaccinations,” he stated.

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