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Before the COVID-19 vaccines arrive

The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said that Nigeria would receive the long-awaited approved COVID-19 vaccines by the…

The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said that Nigeria would receive the long-awaited approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the month, bringing hope that the dreaded pandemic, which has ravaged Nigeria and the world, would now be on the reverse trend.

Dr Shuaib stated that about 100, 000 doses of the vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech will come under the first phase of the delivery from the COVAX facility which is an initiative run by the global vaccine alliance GAVI.

In the second phase, Nigeria will get a further 42 million doses of the vaccines which he said would be a combination of all the vaccines currently in the market.

In all, the vaccines will only cover about 20 percent of Nigeria’s population. To be able to completely eradicate the virus, about 70 percent of the population needs to be covered. This means that even with the delivery of the first and second doses of the vaccines, there still remains a deficit of 50 percent more of the Nigerian population to be covered before it can be reasonably certified that the virus has been eradicated in the country.

We believe the schedule of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, which gives priority to frontline health workers, first responders, strategic country leadership, the elderly and those with co-morbidities is the right thing to do. Not only are those in this category the most exposed to the dangers in the fight against the pandemic and hence the most vulnerable, but the inclusion of those in leadership positions will also help clear doubts in the mind of a populace already sceptical about the efficacy of the vaccines.

But the critical stage of the vaccination will be when it comes to involving the Nigerian public.

To meet the threshold of 70 percent vaccination of the populace in order to eradicate the virus requires rigorous diligence from the authorities. This calls for concerted action across the board from Dr Shuaib’s agency to the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the pandemic, the ministries of Information and Health and their agencies as well as state governments.

The first task in this respect is the need for publicity and enlightenment on the vaccines and the vaccination against the pandemic.

It has been observed that a lot of scepticism exists in the mind of the populace about the source of the COVID-19 vaccines. In order to secure the cooperation of Nigerians for the exercise, these doubts must be properly addressed and laid to rest.

The vaccination exercise itself must proceed with the utmost diligence and attention to detail. The requirement for 70 percent vaccination compliance necessary to eradicate the virus must be seen as a national target that must be met.

There must be no cutting of corners in getting the vaccines to the people and in carrying out the vaccination. There must be no hoarding of the vaccines or diversion to be sold elsewhere beyond the reach of Nigerians to whom it is meant. The necessary mobilisation and training of health personnel for the exercise must be done rigorously and timely.

It must be stated that this is one exercise in which literarily the future well-being of Nigeria depends. From our experience with the pandemic, it is not just the health effects that should worry us but its impact on the other sectors of national life as well, especially the economy.

Accordingly, we must approach the vaccination exercise with all the seriousness it deserves. Having worked thus far to contain the COVID-19 from last year to date, enduring its worst moments and coming out fortuitously better off than others we cannot afford, through negligence, to invite its devastating wrath now that we have the means to stem if not totally eradicate it.

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