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Nigeria Seeks Vaccine to Halt Spread of Monkeypox, Denies Russia’s Allegation of Having Laboratories with Virus

Nigeria’s federal government on Tuesday revealed that it was collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United States Centre for Disease Control to see how Nigeria would access

Dr. Faisal Shuaib

Nigeria’s federal government on Tuesday revealed that it was collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United States Centre for Disease Control to see how Nigeria would access the global stockpile of Monkeypox vaccination to arrest the outbreak of the disease.

The government’s move came just as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Tuesday dismissed the allegations that it was operating biological laboratories with monkey pox virus in Nigeria.

The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) which revealed the collaboration with the WHO, also disclosed that it has vaccinated 30,327,550 persons with the first dose.

It said that the figure of first dose vaccination represented 23.9 per cent of the country’s eligible population, adding that 14,629,451 persons had also received their second dose.

According to the agency, 18,291,072 had been fully vaccinated which represented 16.4 per cent of the country’s eligible population, while 1,229,909 persons were said to have received their booster doses.

The Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, who spoke to journalists at the flag-off of COVID-19 vaccination at Community Pharmacies in Abuja, said the federal government is presently emphasising strict observation of public health safety measures to limit the spread of Monkeypox disease across the country.

The NPHCDA boss said the agency was working with the NCDC to make sure that all of the strategies to limit its spread were put in place.

“We are also engaging the WHO and the United States Centre for Control to see how Nigeria can also access the global stockpile of Monkeypox vaccination.

” Until the vaccines are available, the government is emphasising the use of basic measures to limit the spread of Monkeypox disease,” he explained.

He solicited the support of the media to sensitise Nigerians on ways to avoid being infected.

While speaking on the rollout of vaccination in community pharmacies, Shuaib said the whole essence of collaboration with community pharmacists was to ensure that vaccination and immunisation activities are brought down to the grassroots levels for 24 hours per day.

Shuaib said the Federal Ministry of Health and the Presidential Steering Committee had launched the S.C.A.L.E.S 2.0 as one of the national strategies for COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

He explained that S.C.A.L.E.S. strategy entailed the expansion of vaccination sites beyond government health facilities to include private health facilities and community pharmacies in line with global best practices.

“It is as part of this laudable initiative that we are here today to officially launch this exciting collaboration between the Association of community pharmacists of Nigeria and the NPHCDA.

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

“In Nigeria, for example, community pharmacies involvement in differentiated care and administration of antiretroviral medicines for HIV care have been shown to improve retention on treatment, adherence to medication, and overall better treatment outcomes,” he said.

Shuaib noted that community pharmacists contributed greatly during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic through ensuring the availability and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and hand sanitisers.

He said the synergy would enhance, “our COVID-19 vaccination programme and help the country achieve herd immunity while strengthening the health care system and contributing to health security.”

“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 added.

The Director of the Primary Healthcare Board in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Dr. Yakubu Mohammed charged members of the Association of Community Pharmacies of Nigeria to see the programme as an opportunity to help spread the message of vaccination to the rural populace and improve on the immunisation coverage in the country.

Meanwhile, the NCDC has dismissed the allegations of operating biological laboratories with monkey pox virus in Nigeria.

It stated: “A recent report on social media has come to our attention, said to have been released by the Chief of Russian Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Force, containing allegations.”

It pointed out that the Russian had alleged that: “there are four US-controlled biological laboratories operating in Nigeria. That WHO reports that the Monkeypox (MPX) virus responsible for outbreaks in Europe and elsewhere was imported from Nigeria where the United States of America deployed its biological infrastructure. In order words, MPX virus is generated in these laboratories.”

Reacting to the allegation, the NCDC said the statement was not backed by any evidence.

It also stated that, “the designation and activities of Nigerian public health laboratories are known to the supervising authorities, most of the laboratories having been procured and set up by the federal government in all 36 States and FCT for diagnostic purposes, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases.

“Some other laboratories are dedicated to the very successful HIV control program, managed by the federal government and her Partners, based on larger and longstanding bilateral and multilateral cooperation in public health, including prevention, diagnosis, surveillance, and control of diseases.

“As a rule, Nigeria welcomes scientific cooperation with all foreign countries, and has received material support from the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan etc, and also discussed vaccine production with Russia. Collaboration between Nigeria and the United States has provided opportunities for technical assistance, capacity building, provision of equipment and field hospitals at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and funds to support health programmes, like HIV/AIDS, malaria elimination.”