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COVID-19: Nigeria may not access vaccines if…— Dr Ifeanyi, Public Health Analyst

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Last weekend, the World Health Organisation, WHO denied the purported media report of the disqualification of Nigeria from the vaccine through the Pfizer-BioNTech COVAX facility. Nigeria will now benefit from the 16 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine allocation.

However, criticism trails Nigeria’s exclusion as the 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines expected to arrive in Nigeria this month was no longer feasible.

Good Health Weekly spoke to a renowned Medical Laboratory Scientist and a Public Health Analyst, Dr Casmier Ifeanyi.

Ifeanyi said Nigeria is yet to get its act together in the procurement of vaccines.  For him, while queuing behind WHO/COVAX facility is good, Nigeria should rise up and build capacity in-country for sustainable production of vaccines. Excerpts:

Is Nigeria on track to rollout COVID-19 vaccines and start immunisation?

I want to urge the Nigerian government to do everything possible to keep faith with Nigerians on this new expectation for the delivery of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine by the 2nd of March 2021.  Initially, some of us have raised our voices that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is a more friendly vaccine that fits into the current cold chain capacity that we have in Nigeria. Nigeria over time has established cold chain system that supports the storage and transport and administration of vaccines that require 2 to 8 degrees.

We have the capacity for that and it is not in doubt. So choosing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine gives us something more amenable to our temperate nature and I expect that that is what we should do.

We have not gotten our act right in accessing the vaccine and that is why we were told it would come in early January.

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Early January came and went, we were also told it would come by the end of the month, end of the came and went, and we were told it would come in February, now the next possible date has been put on 2nd March 2021.

There is now a major shift from our interest in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine which is commendable because we are getting 16 million doses.

That will deal with about 10 percent of the Nigerian population. It is reasonable. It will help us protect our vulnerable groups and it will also help us protect our healthcare workers.

By and large, this vaccine is not an end. The protection of the vaccine is not like endless protection.  It is short-lived. We should put that in perspective.  Of course, that is the only available intervention we have now but we must not put our hopes only in it as if it is the end to everything.

There is a need for us to discipline ourselves to take advisory and comply with non Pharmaceutical Interventions and make sure that it is strictly enforced. This will do us a lot of good probably superior to what the vaccine will do.  The vaccine is not even adequate to go around. Imagine 16 million doses as opposed to over 200 million population.

Yes, if the 16 million doses come, it will not even give us the requisite herd immunity that will help to stem the infection. The vaccine is good but it is not an end to the infection.

We need to put that in perspective.  Egypt on its own as a country got vaccines for her citizenry.  I expect Nigeria to do so. Yes, it is good to work with COVAX and follow, work and rely on WHO but I also do think that as a country that has its own sovereignty, we should also find ways of protecting our people. That is just pragmatic.

Source: Vanguard News

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