COVID-19: FG Reiterates Potency Of Vaccines

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…As Nigeria receives over 2 million J&J vaccines from Canada

Johnson and Johnson J&J vaccines

The Federal Government has reiterated that there are no short-shelf doses of COVID-19 vaccine donations in the country and emphasized that they are now promptly shipped and distributed through the COVAX and AVAT facilities to reduce the risk of expiration. 

The executive director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib gave the assurance today (August 18, 2022) in Abuja, at the official handover of over 2,649,600, doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines donated to Nigeria by the Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria Ambassador Jamie Christoff.

Recall that before the expiration of one million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country, the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 announced that the country will no longer accept vaccines with short-shelf life, as it mounts undue pressure on health workers the clock to administer them. 

The PSCs’ decision to destroy the one million vaccines publicly was to assure Nigerians that there was no intention to use them. 

Shuaib said that donors now recognised the need to give away vaccines before their expiration dates and have also created a pathway for prompt shipment and distribution through the COVAX and AVAT facilities to curb the risk of expiration. 

He said that there was now better coordination, and the COVID-19 vaccines in the country are not expired or have short-shelf lives. 

The NPHCDA boss said that the Federal Government through the agency and other partners have continued to ensure that the country received vaccines with a long expiration date. 

He disclosed that a total of 62 million vaccine doses were available in the country at the moment, as the nation is also expecting about 40 million more doses. 

While commending the government of Canada for providing the much-needed support, he said that the donation is critical to helping the country ramp up its vaccination rollout process.

“Johnson & Johnson offers a single-dose opportunity for full vaccination, which means if you take one dose of the vaccine, you are regarded as a fully vaccinated person. 

“However, we strongly recommend a booster dose after 2 months of taking the initial dose to strengthen your level of immunity against COVID-19. A second dose of the J&J vaccine serves as the booster dose,” he said. 

“As we all know, we are in a full campaign mode in which COVID-19 vaccines are not only ready-made available in the health facilities and other designated places, but also brought by our vaccination teams to your doorsteps. 

“We are leveraging our polio eradication experience to fight COVID-19 and we are pretty sure that with the kind of support we have received from the Canadian government today and the continued cooperation of our partners and stakeholders, we will, sooner than expected, be able to put COVID-19 behind us in Nigeria.” 

Speaking on the SCALES 3.0 strategy in the country, Shuaib noted that the SCALES 3.0 offers opportunities for childhood vaccination and other Primary Health Care (PHC), services for Nigerians alongside the COVID-19 vaccination. 

“What this simply means is that parents can take their eligible children for vaccination against polio, yellow fever, measles and other vaccine-preventable childhood diseases in the same locations where the adults receive COVID-19 vaccines. 

“Our mobile teams are also in possession of all these vaccines when they visit your homes. Please, welcome them and present yourselves and your eligible children for vaccination as may be applicable,” he explained. 

While donating the over 2.6 million vaccine doses, Christoff said that this was his first assignment as ambassador to Nigeria. 

The ambassador recalled that the Canadian government had earlier donated over 800,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Nigeria. 

He said that the donation is in fulfilment of his country’s commitment to supporting developing countries in ramping up vaccination against the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to him, in 2020 the world was faced with the challenge to develop an effective vaccine. In 2021 the challenges evolved to the production and distribution of the vaccines. “Today, in 2022, we need to put this vaccine within people’s reach,” he said. 

In his remarks, the UNICEF Nigeria chief of health, Dr. Eduardo Celades Blanco called on eligible Nigerians who were yet to be vaccinated to do so.

“If we keep up with the vaccination, the likely scenario is that even though the virus continues to evolve, the severity of the disease will reduce over time as the immunity increases due to vaccination.” 

While appreciating the Canadian government for the donation, he said the gesture came at a time it is most needed. 

He commended the recent MIC/NIC survey on vaccination, stressing that despite the pandemic, the country is only one of the few countries globally that recorded improved immunisation coverage. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo, also commended the country’s COVID-19 mass vaccination strategy. 

Mulombo, who was represented by the EPI focal point, Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Dr. Kofi Boateng also disclosed that other African countries look up to Nigeria to learn how to roll out their vaccinations campaign. 

Racheal Abujah
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