President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the reconstitution of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and extending its mandate to December 2021.
It comes as the PTF submitted its report on a previous three-month extension of its mandate ended on March 31.
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The report includes a recommendation to transition PTF into a “presidential steering committee on COVID-19” with effect from April 1, with a modified mandate to reflect the non-emergency status of COVID-19 as a potentially long-term pandemic.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, PTF, Boss Mustapha, said, “The extension by Mr. President has enabled the PTF to vigorously pursue the twin objectives of epidemic control through reduced transmission and minimizing mortality among vulnerable and infected citizens.
“You will recall that the timeline between November 2020 through February 2021 coincided with a virulent second wave, during which the country experienced the most challenging phase of our national response. The daily number of cases, fatalities, and level of non-compliance with public health measures were all very high,” Mustapha said.
“That the structure of the PSC shall reflect the new focus of the response with a targeted approach on vaccine oversight, risk communication, international travel quarantine processes and sub-national engagement; and that the tenure of the PSC shall last till 31 December 2021,” said Mustapha.
He added that the PSC would maintain the present constitution, functions and strategies of the PTF; be supported by a slim technical and administrative structure.
He also said that the current National Incident Manager (Dr Mukhtar Mohammed) shall formally take over from the National Coordinator, Dr. Sani Aliyu and function as the Head (Technical Secretariat) and member of the PSC.
The SGF also recalled that Nigeria, received 3.92 million doses of the COVID-19 Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on 2 March, 2021, which represented the first tranche of about 16 million doses allocated to Nigeria through the COVAX facility, aimed at vaccinating an initial 20 percent of the population.
He said, “The PTF through the Federal Ministry of Health and the NPHCDA prioritised the initial consignment of vaccines to cover frontline medical personnel, strategic leadership, and those above the age of 50 years across the nation.
“Majority of sub-national entities have already received their allocation and administration is progressing. As at April 5, 2021, 963,802 persons, in Nigeria, had received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The overarching objective is to vaccinate 70 percent of Nigeria’s population between 2021 and 2022,” Mustapha said.
Warns of COVID-19 variants resistance to vaccination
Mustapha also warned that the global hope offered by the arrival of vaccines has however been threatened by the detection of variants of concern as described by the WHO (B.1.1.7; B.1.351; P.1).
According to him, these variants are associated with increase in the spread of the virus (transmissibility), and account for the third wave of infections currently occurring in Germany, France, United Kingdom, Brazil and a host of other countries.
He said, “There is some evidence that existing vaccines are less effective against the variants. While research is ongoing looking at the impact of variants of concern on the global situation, Nigeria has remained very vigilant in this regard and shall continue to apply science and data to navigate this dangerous terrain.
“Other domestic and global challenges impacting on the hope offered by the vaccine include the global vaccine nationalism; demand far exceeding production capacity of manufacturers which is threatening delivery and access schedules; domestic vaccine hesitancy and elite resistance; and diminished level of trust between citizens and government.”
The SGF said that while the international challenges are being addressed through direct diplomatic, global and regional bodies, the PTF has been engaging actively with sub-national entities, traditional rulers, faith-based leaders and other critical stakeholders through partnerships to promote ownership of the response; escalate risk communication and community engagement; minimize fake news and misinformation; and minimize vaccine hesitancy and elite resistance.