COVID-19: FG Releases N10bn To Support Domestic Vaccine Production

The Federal Government has released the sum of N10billion to support domestic vaccine production.

This is according to the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire.

Speaking on Monday at the briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF), Dr Ehanire said the Federal Government is working to develop the country’s own vaccines.

The minister said the government is exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in the country and have had discussions with a producer.

He, however, noted that while the nation seeks to get its own vaccines, other options are being explored for licensed production in collaboration with recognized institutions.

Regarding reports of claims by some persons in Nigeria, to have COVID-19 vaccines for sale in the country, Dr Ehanire advised all citizens to disregard these claims as they are criminal.

“There are procedures for vaccine acquisition and use which include appropriate regulation and certification by NAFDAC,” the minister stated as he warned against the risk of fake vaccines.

He stressed that there is no vaccine yet approved for use, adding that the NPHCDA is the only authorized vaccine administrator in Nigeria.

Dr Ehanire also noted that while the prospect of a vaccine arriving soon is cheering, the importance of non-pharmaceutical measures remains critical to preventing infections.

“Wear your face masks, wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizers, avoid close contacts and crowded places and if you have symptoms like cough, difficulty in breathing, sudden loss of taste and smell, and fever, please get tested,” the minister advised.

Below is Dr Ehanire’s full statement as presented at the briefing on Monday.

PRESS BRIEFING BY HON. MINISTER OF HEALTH, DR. OSAGIE EHANIRE AT THE PRESIDENTIAL TASK FORCE ON COVID-19 PRESS BRIEFING ON MONDAY 18TH JANUARY, 2021

Protocol

The number of new covid19 cases has continued to rise in Nigeria, such that we confirmed 10,300 cases from just 50,750 samples tested in one week, translating to 20% positivity rate. It means 1 of every 5 persons tested last week turned out positive, compared to the previous week which recorded a positivity rate of 14%. This is a serious escalation of cases.

  1. Nigeria’s total number of confirmed cases is 110,387 out of a total of 1,172,234 samples tested, with a cumulative positivity rate of 9.4%. 1,444 cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, with sadly 77 deaths in the past week and total fatality of 1,435. It is instructive of the 2nd wave that all cases recorded so far this January make up more than 20% of all confirmed cases, barely halfway through the month, and more than the whole of December.
  2. There is no question that we are deeply into the second wave of the pandemic which requires that PTF and FMoH review our strategies to respond to the challenge and take additional measures to check the case deluge that can threaten our health system’s capacity to cope.
  3. The Federal Ministry of Health has outlined three approaches to confront the pandemic:
  4. infection mitigation,
  5. therapeutics
  6. vaccines.
  7. Reducing infection rate for COVID-19 remains the easiest, cheapest objective of government, whose main effort is to ensure social mobilization for risk communication, testing, strengthening surveillance activities for early detection, active contact tracing, isolation and treatment; however, implementation of critical non-pharmaceutical measures requires much cooperation of the public.

We expect much more adherence to wearing masks, social distancing, use of sanitizers etc, than we are seeing today. Social distancing is of special concern, especially with regard to so-called “super spreader activities” that involve congregational settings, which need to be reduced, restricted or prohibited in the interest of the common good.

  1. With regards to therapeutics, we still strive to reduce mortality from this disease by ensuring adequate stock of supplies and strengthening our case management capacity. The Ministry of Health is working to expand oxygen availability across the country to address shortages, which have been seen to be a challenge globally, and also to review the value of various pharmaceuticals and protocols proposed for COVID-19 treatment. Clinicians are urged to work out guidelines for participating in clinical studies for ivermectin. The Honourable Minister of State and I joined in a virtual meeting of the FMoH Case Management Pillar, which provided an opportunity to interact with those in charge of managing cases in Isolation Centres. Gaps and challenges identified are already being addressed. Such meetings are held regularly to ensure quality of care in our treatment centres and also provide a platform for case managers to compare notes on treatment approaches.
  2. Clinicians are advised to consider National Interim Clinical Guidelines for Management of COVID-19 cases, bearing in mind their discretion, as various novel treatment options emerge and are evaluated.
  3. I use this opportunity to recognize and thank our frontline health workers for the great work they are doing in the face of challenges, which we in Nigeria are handling as well as any other country. I assure you that Government will provide all necessary support to facilitate quality of care at the centres. Citizens can trust Government hospitals because of the extensive experience our clinicians have accumulated in managing covid-19.
  4. On vaccines, we are exploring all options available for the acquisition of approved vaccines for Nigerians. We are hopeful that the first consignment will arrive the country in some weeks. Apart from the COVAX facility, which is billed to cover vaccination of just 20% of our population, we plan to increase our chances of getting enough vaccines to meet the country’s need to cover an additional 50% of the population. 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 options for 270 million doses of various types of vaccines. Bearing in mind options suitable for our environment and our available infrastructure, as well as Investment in delivery, Nigeria has written to express interest in 10 million doses of the viral vector vaccine, which could be supplied as from March 2021. This vaccine does nor require deep freezers.
  5. Preparation for covid-19 vaccine requires that countries determine criteria for prioritization, develop a robust vaccine distribution strategy and identify vaccine administration sites and teams. Nigeria fortunately has experience and residual assets from polio eradication initiative, which will give us a headstart. However, It also requires us to develop a procurement, supply chain and distribution plan for commodities and devices, as well as a sustainability plan. These are what the NPHCDA, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency is already working on.
  6. Tomorrow, 19th January, 2021, FMoH shall hold a National Vaccine Conference, as part of our preparations, to mobilize 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. 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. We must be able to reach all eligible to receive it.
  7. The Ministry of Finance has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production. While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production in collaboration with recognized institutions, we are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in country and havehad s discussion with a producer.
  8. There are reports of claims by some persons in Nigeria, to have COVID-19 vaccines for sale in the country. I advise all citizens to disregard these claims as they are criminal. There are procedures for vaccine acquisition and use which include appropriate regulation and certification by NAFDAC. I advise against risk of fake vaccines, as there is no vaccine yet approved for use and NPHCDA is the only authorized vaccine administrator in Nigeria.
  9. Finally, I remind us all that, while the prospect of a vaccine arriving soon is cheering, the importance of non-pharmaceutical measures remain critical to prevent infections. Wear your face masks, wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizers, avoid close contacts and crowded places and if you have symptoms like cough, difficulty in breathing, sudden loss of taste and smell and fever, please get tested.
  10. Thank you.
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