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FG Engages WHO Over Monkeypox Vaccines 

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Monkeypox Vaccine.
Monkeypox vaccine.

As global health leaders investigate an unusual outbreak of monkeypox across more than a dozen countries, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has revealed that it is in discussion with the World Health Organization (WHO) to secure monkeypox vaccines in the country. 

The executive director, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said this today (May 31, 2022) during the official flag-off of the National COVID-19 Vaccination exercise in accredited community pharmacies, in collaboration with the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria.

Science Nigeria reports that the European Commission is going ahead with the centralised purchase of an antiviral drug and a vaccine to be deployed against monkeypox, according to people familiar with the matter, as cases of the disease continue to climb and nations race to place orders.

The contracts, expected to be finalised as early as next week, would be for US drugmaker Siga Technologies’ antiviral tecovirimat or Tpoxx and for Danish group Bavarian Nordic’s smallpox vaccine Imvanex.

Monkeypox, which causes fever and skin lesions but usually clears up without treatment has, in recent weeks, been detected outside West and Central Africa, where it is endemic. 

The smallpox vaccine is up to 85 per cent effective in preventing a monkeypox infection, according to the WHO, due to similarities in the pathogens. 

Shuaib said that apart from the WHO, the country was also speaking with the United States of America and another relevant international partner to ensure that the country has a vaccine for monkeypox 

He cautioned that while the discussion on vaccines was ongoing, anyone could be at risk of contracting the virus; Children, pregnant women and the immune-compromised were considered particularly at risk.

“Monkeypox can also be transmitted via surfaces and materials, so it is wise to avoid touching materials that have been in contact with a sick human or animal.

“This is a virus that is super stable outside the human host, so it can live on objects like blankets and things like that. Good practice would be to regularly wash clothing and bedsheets at high temperature,” he advised. 

Speaking on the flag-off, the NPHCDA boss said that Nigeria, through the agency, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Presidential Steering Committee, launched the S.C.A.L.E.S 2.0 as one of the national strategies for COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. 

“In the spirit of inclusiveness and in our appreciation of the fact that effectively controlling COVID-19 transmission through vaccination requires all actors in the health landscape to be involved, the S.C.A.L.E.S. strategy entails the expansion of vaccination sites beyond government health facilities to include private health facilities and community pharmacies in line with global best practices,” he said.

Shuaib further said that as part of this initiative the agency was officially launching this collaboration with the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria. 

“Community pharmacies are one of the most easily accessible and frequently consulted points of care for health care service delivery by the public sector, especially in underserved populations due to their interconnectedness with the communities. 

“In Nigeria, for example, community pharmacies’ involvement in differentiated care and administration of anti-retroviral medicines for HIV care has been shown to improve retention on treatment, adherence to medication and overall better treatment outcomes. 

“In fact, community pharmacists have contributed greatly during the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic through ensuring the availability and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and hand sanitisers,” he said.

He affirmed that the synergy would enhance the COVID-19 vaccination programme and help the country achieve herd immunity while strengthening the health care system and contributing to health security.

Shuaib said that many countries around the world have authorised vaccination in community pharmacies, including COVID-19 vaccination. 

“This practice has shown promise in countries like South Africa, the United States of America and the United Kingdom, where pharmacies are playing a crucial role in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“With over 6000 community pharmacies spread across the country, coupled with the ease of access and long operating hours, I believe this will contribute to rapidly increasing vaccination coverage. I am excited about this collaboration and I believe it will add zest to the country’s effort to attain the national target of 70 per cent vaccination coverage that is necessary to achieve herd immunity,” he said. 

He charged them to see this opportunity as one of their numerous contributions to the national health security of Nigeria and, indeed, the good people of Nigeria. 

“It is a commitment to humanity and it will go down in our history that ACPN contributed actively to end the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic in our country,” he said. 

The NPHCDA stressed that Nigerians accessing the community pharmacist for any of the COVID-19 vaccines do not have to pay for the services because all COVID-19 in the country were free. 

Speaking, the national chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria. Pharm. Adewale Oladigbolu said that this was the first public-private engagements towards the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the country. 

Oladigbolu said the collaboration was one public health initiative bound to improve access to vaccines, given that community pharmacists were easily accessible. 

He said that community pharmacists also offer extended hours of service and are trusted health care professionals. As such, their inclusion in the vaccination process would drive down vaccine hesitancy and improve coverage tremendously across the country. 

Speaking, the executive secretary of Primary Health Care Development Board, FCT, Dr. Yakubu Muhammed called on all Nigerians in the FCT to go get vaccinated. He insisted that the country has enough COVID-19 vaccines to go round. 

Muhammed, therefore, urged all eligible Nigerians aged 18 years and above who were yet to receive their COVID-19 vaccines or those who were due for a second dose or the booster dose to visit the nearest health facility or designated community pharmacies to get vaccinated. 

He stressed that COVID-19 and all other vaccines were safe, effective and free. 

Recall that as of May 31, 2022, Nigeria has vaccinated 30,327,550 persons with the first dose, representing 23.9 per cent of its eligible population while 14,629,451 persons have received their second dose and 18,291,072 have been fully vaccinated, representing 16.4 per cent of her eligible population. 

Meanwhile, 1,229,909 persons have received their booster doses. However, the collaboration is a plausible direction to take if the nation must reach her national targets within the shortest time possible

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