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No confirmation yet on when Pfizer vaccine will arrive – Health agency

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency says there is no definite date for when the 100,000 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines will arrive in Nigeria.

The NPHCDA, however, said the vaccines would most likely arrive in February, adding that government officials, vulnerable persons and health workers would be the first to get them

The Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said this during an interview with Bloomberg published on Thursday

 The Federal Government had in December stated that the vaccines would arrive by the end of January.

Last week, however, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 shifted the date to February but did not give the specific date.

However, speaking to Bloomberg, Faisal said Nigeria was waiting for confirmation from COVAX which is an initiative backed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organisation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

 On when the vaccines would arrive, he said, “We are waiting for final confirmation from COVAX on when the first doses will arrive,” adding that the “most recent indication is they are expected in February.”

The WHO had last week warned again a “me first attitude” in the distribution of vaccines.

It remains unclear why government officials some of whom have no pre-existing conditions, are being placed on the priority list. 

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control says it supports the Federal Government’s decision to reopen schools for the second term of the 2020/2021 academic session because the benefits of having children in school outweigh the risks of transmission of COVID-19.

The Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, gave the reasons at the Virtual Plenary Session and Annual General Meeting of the Paediatric Association of Nigeria in Lagos on Friday.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the theme of the event was, ‘Child survival in Nigeria amid COVID-19 pandemic: Issues, challenges and way forward’.

 He noted that the current data and statistics for the welfare of children in Nigeria was sad and troubling, and that having them stay out of school would further aggravate the situation by denying them what they require to have healthy and productive lives.

The director-general said Nigeria had the highest number of out-of-school children; nearly 31 million of children under the age of five and about half of the population under the age of 15.

 He added that 10.5 million children were currently out of school and closure of schools may result to 10 million being out of school forever.

He added, “You can see why some decisions around school reopening are so difficult to make by the government; how do you balance the need to control this pandemic versus the other requirements children need to live healthy and productive?

“This pandemic is threatening efforts to prevent major causes of child morbidity and mortality, and threatening the small gains we have made over many years in a very difficult context that is ours.

 “If things get out of hand, we may and we will consider this condition but we all understand that the lockdown had a huge impact on children.”

Earlier, the NCDC boss said the worst outcome of the virus had spared children because its manifestation in them was less severe, often asymptomatic and often not clinically significant to visit the hospitals.

 “Just 10 per cent of our cases have been confirmed in children and one per cent deaths. The few deaths that occurred in children were likely to have happened to them through morbidity that led to deficits in coping with the virus,” he said.

Ihekweazu called for collaboration among governments, schools and parents to effectively protect children from contracting the virus.

Plans underway to expand NCDC lab–Osinbajo

In a related development, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says plans are underway to expand the facilities of the National Reference Laboratory of the NCDC in Abuja.

 Osinbajo made the disclosure on Friday while on an assessment tour of the facilities at the NCDC NRL, Gaduwa, Abuja.

The Vice-President acknowledged and commended the efforts of NCDC staff and other public health workers, describing their efforts as heroic.

He reiterated the commitment of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari  (retd.) to prioritise and strengthen health and security.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who accompanied Osinbajo, commended the critical role of the agency in the prevention, detection and response to disease outbreaks.

 On his part, the NCDC boss thanked the vice-president for the visit and for the opportunities to update him regularly through the National Economic Council.

The NCDC boss added that the NRL had been recognised as one of the top eight sequencing laboratories in Africa, with full genomics and bio-information capacities.

He said the NRL was selected as a regional reference sequencing laboratory for COVID-19 and other emerging pathogens.

 Meanwhile, the Osun State Government on Friday warned residents to adhere to all non-pharmaceutical safety protocols aimed at protecting them against coronavirus.

The government said it had observed that people in some quarters had been conducting themselves and their activities in manners that contravened the new set of COVID-19 management guidelines released on Wednesday.

The guidelines banned vigils and imposed a dusk to dawn curfew beginning from 10pm to 5am, among other guidelines. 

A statement by the Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Funke Egbemode, explained that the protocols were with immediate effect.

It read in part, “Osun State has observed that people in some quarters have been conducting themselves and their businesses/activities in manners that contravene the new set of COVID-19 management guidelines released on Wednesday.

 “Citizens are informed that every condition in the guideline, including the conditions for the conduct of business, for events, religious activities and the curfew, are with immediate effect.”

 Also, the Rivers State Government has dismissed reports in the social media that Governor Nyesom Wike had ordered the closure of schools for two weeks.

The Commissioner for Education, Prof Kaniye Ebeku, disclosed this in a statement on Friday.

The statement read in part, “The attention of the Rivers State Ministry of Education has been drawn to a fake news trending in the social media, purportedly signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, to the effect that the governor has ordered the closure of schools in the state for two weeks with effect from January 22, 2021.

 “The Ministry of Education hereby categorically states that the news is false, and should be treated as fake news. It is the handiwork of fraudsters and mischief makers who derive pleasure from misleading members of the public and causing confusion.”

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre in Nasarawa State has called on Governor Abdullahi Sule to establish sick bays across secondary and tertiary institutions to support research centres by using secondary data so as to improve documentation and explore telemedicine as a means of decongesting health facilities in the state.

 In a communiqué obtained by one of our correspondents in Lafia, the state capital, from the chairman communiqué drafting committee, Dr Ibrahim Alhassan, on Thursday, it urged the state government to set up State Infection Prevention and Control Committee team with a team leader and an Infection Prevention and Control Committee at the state ministry of health to prevent further spread of the pandemic.

Saturday PUNCH reports that recently the state was ranked 17th among the 36 states that recorded high infections.

 The communiqué, however, urged the state government to increase the number of laboratory personnel in the state Infectious Disease and Research Centre Lafia and institutionalise plans for rapid response and diagnosis of other infectious disease outbreak in the state apart from COVID-19.

The communiqué further read in part, “We call on the state government to issue an executive order and institute mobile courts to enforce compliance with the preventive measures, particularly use of facemasks and avoiding overcrowding, using community service or monetary fines, just as the prioritisation of home-based care for case management through the general hospitals and ensuring logistics support for the focal persons was emphasised.” 

Meanwhile, the Nasarawa State House of Assembly has threatened action against both public and private schools across the 13 local government areas and 18 development areas of the state that do not adhere strictly to all the laid down guidelines on COVID-19 preventive measures.

 Chairman, House Committee on Education, Science and Technology, Mr Daniel Ogazi, handed down the warning on Friday when he led other members of the committee on an unscheduled visit to some tertiary and secondary schools in the state to assess their level of preparedness on re-opening of schools amidst the second wave of the virus. 

He said the aim of the visit was to prevent the spread of the dreaded disease in the state.

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