Nigeria’s federal government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have said that Covid-19 vaccines will first be given to 20% of the country’s most vulnerable population when ready.
The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said Thursday at a media briefing by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 in Abuja, that the world body had entered into an agreement with over 186 countries on the funding and distribution of vaccines.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also expressed the determination of Nigeria to get the vaccine, saying it’s a priority of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
At Thursday’s press briefing, the federal government also warned Nigerians against making non-essential travels to Covid-19 high-burdened countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil to mitigate the risk of worsening the spread of the virus in the country.
Mulombo, however, said an estimated $38 billion had been earmarked to support the development of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide, adding that two-thirds of the amount has been mobilised while the remaining is being sourced.
He explained that under the principle agreed with the coalition working to promote development of Covid-19 vaccines, every subscribed country will get the vaccine to vaccinate 20 per cent of its most vulnerable population at the initial stage.
According to him, WHO believes that it is only by observing such a fair distribution of vaccines that the Covid-19 pandemic can be arrested.
“All the countries that subscribed understand that if there is any single country left out, it could be that country that will be the origin of another wave of infection.
“The facility needed for the vaccine development is estimated at about $38 billion and two-thirds of the amount is already mobilised while the remaining is also being sourced,” he stated.
While allaying fears of possible scramble for the Covid-19 vaccines and lack of access to poor economies, Mulombo said all the 186 countries had subscribed to the principle binding the development and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine to ensure fair distribution to all countries.
While providing an update on vaccine development, Mulombo said at present, there are over 200 vaccine candidates, out of which 47 have undergone clinical trials.
He said 10 of the vaccines have reached advanced stages in human trials, including the one being developed by Pfizer.
The Minster of State for Health, Senator OlunmibeMamora, who presented an update on the Covid-19 pandemic at the briefing, corroboratedMulombo’s position, saying that Nigeria will ensure that 20 per cent of the vulnerable population are vaccinated as soon the first batch of the vaccine is ready.
On his part, the Director General of the Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr.ChikweIhekweazu, said Nigeria is working with the WHO-led coalition to ensure that the country gets the vaccine as soon as they are ready.
He said the federal government was making efforts to increase the doses of vaccines allocation to Nigeria.
Ihekweazu added that the NCDC is commencing sensitisation to promote acceptability of the vaccine by the population so as to avoid resistance.
He also spoke about the challenges of logistics that is associated with distributing Covid-19 vaccines.
According to him, some of the vaccines would require a refrigerator with cooling capacity of -70 degrees and -80 degrees.
“We don’t know the type of vaccine we will eventually be going with, but the only vaccine available at the moment and for which the result has been announced will require minus 70 degrees and minus 80 degrees freezers,” he said.
He, however, stated that there are freezers of the required capacity to store the vaccines at the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja.
Ihekweazu further spoke on the recent outbreaks of Yellow fever and Lassa fever, saying that the country may witness an upsurge in cases of Lassa fever infection due to the dry season weather.
He blamed the resurgence of Yellow fever disease on the non-adherence to health advisories by citizens.
According to him, samples taken from Enugu and Delta states have tested positive for Yellow fever.