***Governors promise to release counterpart funds early
***I won’t take vaccine, my people not guinea pigs –Kogi gov
The Federal Government, through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, has budgeted the sum of N10.6bn to transport COVID-19 vaccine to the 36 states and the 774 local government areas as well as the Federal Capital Territory and the six area councils.
Also, about N1.4bn was set aside for the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment while N373m was earmarked for the purchase of Adverse Events Following Immunisation kits otherwise known as AEFI kits.
This is according to a document obtained by Saturday PUNCH on Friday, which was presented to the 36 governors during a meeting between representatives of the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Governors Forum on Thursday.
The document titled, ‘Estimated Budget for States Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccines (end-to-end),’ showed that Kano State, which has 44 local government areas, has the highest budget for transportation at N685.4m while N558.6m will be spent on distributing the vaccines to Lagos State, which is the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.
About N476m would be spent on distributing vaccines in the President’s home state of Katsina while N396.3m will be spent in Oyo State.
Bayelsa, which has just eight local government areas, has the lowest budget for vaccine transportation which is N121m.
The total amount of money earmarked for the transportation of vaccine, procurement of Personal Protective Equipment, AEFI kits and sensitisation was summed up at N12.7bn.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on December 22, 2020 told the Senate that the Federal Government would need about N400bn to vaccinate 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population.
The Senate leadership subsequently asked Ehanire to bring a budget while they promised to give it quick consideration.
However, it was learnt that as of Friday, no supplementary budget had been sent to the National Assembly.
Governors to release counterpart funds for vaccine roll-out
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Governors Forum has said it will facilitate the timely release of counterpart funds from state governments to ensure the success of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out exercise.
The NGF also appealed to the Federal Government for logistics support for the 36 state governments to make a success of the vaccination exercise.
Governors of the 36 states made the appeal after an emergency virtual meeting of the NGF on Thursday.
Saturday PUNCH reports that Nigeria on Tuesday recorded a major milestone in its medical history by receiving 3.94 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID – 19 Vaccine.
The vaccine was received through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Assess Facility popularity known as COVAX.
The Chairman of the NGF, Kayode Fayemi, said the meeting had only one agendum, which was a discussion on the administration of the first batch of the COVAX AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which was received by the government of Nigeria on March 2, 2021.
According to him, governors received briefings from the Executive Secretary of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, who was in company with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha.
The NGF’s communiqué, signed by Fayemi, read in part, “Following extensive discussions on the vaccine administration, governors called on the Federal Government to take necessary steps to support logistics and inoculation activities in states and resolved to take the following actions to ensure a smooth vaccine roll-out exercise across the country:
“Upscale all vaccine communication and advocacy mechanisms already in place in the states to reduce the level of vaccination hesitancy amongst Nigerians;
“Provide adequate security to all state- and local government-owned cold stores that will be used for storing the vaccine.
“Ensure strict compliance and prioritisation of the list of eligible persons to be vaccinated, starting with all frontline workers, support staff, COVID-19 rapid response teams, workers in lab networks, isolation and treatment centres as well as tertiary and specialist hospitals.
“Strategic leaders will also be vaccinated to give confidence to the public on the safety of the vaccine. The second phase will prioritise older adults (50 and above) while the third and fourth phases will focus on adults (18-49) with co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, lung disease, and other health conditions; and adults (18 – 49 years) without any underlying health condition and the rest of the population; actively monitor vaccine administration in their states through a vaccine implementation dashboard.”
Don’t play politics with vaccines, Gbajabiamila warns handlers
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has warned those in charge of distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccines not to play politics with the proces.
Gbajabiamila also urged all Nigerians to rally round the Federal Government in the fight against the pandemic, describing the disease as “an unseen enemy” causing havoc around the world.
The Speaker stated that only a collective effort devoid of politics and conspiracy theories could guarantee a successful war against the virus.
A statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, quoted Gbajabiamila to have issued the warning in Abuja during the flag-off of COVID-19 vaccination in the country.
He said, “We must not play politics with vaccines; we must not play politics with the health of our neighbours; we must be on the same page whilst we also correct and do what we need to do in terms of our role in checking the government and holding their feet to the fire.”
“In the statement titled, ‘COVID-19 Vaccination: We Must Rally Behind Government to Fight Unseen Enemy,” Gbajabiamila appealed to the media to pass accurate information about the virus and the vaccines to the public.
The Speaker assured Nigerians that with the support of the National Assembly, the government would deliver more vaccine doses to the country soon to expand the vaccination beyond the first four million doses.
He commended the efforts of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for the doggedness with which the team worked in the last one year to contain the virus from spiralling out of control in Nigeria.
Abuja health workers vaccinated
Vaccination against COVID-19 began in Abuja on Friday.
A doctor at the National Hospital, Abuja, Dr Cyprian Ngong, made history as the first Nigerian to be vaccinated against the deadly virus, ushering Nigeria into a new phase in the fight against the pandemic.
Ngong, who had been treating COVID-19 patients at the isolation centre of NH since the beginning of the fight last year, got a jab of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine on Friday.
The vaccine dosage was administered on Ngong by the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Shuaib, at about 12:05pm.
Shuaib commended Ngong and other health workers who had been working tirelessly at different COVID-19 isolation centres since March 2020, providing counsel and treatment to patients.
Speaking with journalists after being vaccinated, Ngong said, “We’ve been at the forefront here in National Hospital at the Isolation Centre. They’ve provided everything we need for this fight. We’ve lost some, we’ve got some and we are happy we are getting the vaccines now in Nigeria. That is about the best news we’ve heard since.
“I only wish my dad had this vaccine, may be months ago or so. We lost him but we thank God and the fight is still on and we will win.”
The second person who received the vaccine was Dr Tahir Yunusa, a pathologist with the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada, who was reported to have saved 10,549, lives at Gwagwalada COVID-19 isolation/treatment centre.
Others were Dr Nuru Samudeen, a family physician at the Accident and Emergency Unit, National Hospital, Dr Joseph Nuru and Faith Eragbai.
The event was witnessed by the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, represented by Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe; Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha; Ministers of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and Senator Olorunimbe Mamora (State) and several other stakeholders, including representatives of donor agencies.
Nigeria to vaccinate 70 per cent of population – Mustapha
Mustapha, while flagging off the exercise, stated that Nigeria would “vaccinate 70 per cent of its population and achieve herd immunity by 2023.”
Mustapha called on Nigerians to approach the vaccines phase with unity of purpose and understand that nobody was safe until everyone was vaccinated.
He said, “We must believe our government on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines brought to Nigeria, support the planned and systematic roll-out of the vaccines and mobilise our citizens as we move into the states. We must recognise that vaccine hesitancy will impact negatively on our lives and those of our loved ones, if allowed to fester.”
Also, Ehanire said the vaccine was confirmed to have positive results after undergoing assessment by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.
He stressed that Nigerians under 18 years and pregnant women were not eligible to take the vaccine except medically certified to take the jab.
Ehanire stated, “It is a relief and the marking of the start of a tedious but hopeful exercise to see our citizens develop immunity against the virus.
“It is an horrifying one year to follow a gradual increase of the COVID-19 casualties in our country, especially among health workers which was also depleting our human resources.”
He added that the deployment would be in four phases and would align with the planned arrival of vaccines in batches.
He noted that each phase would capture a specific segment of the eligible population to ensure equity in vaccine deployment.
The minister said apart from the frontline health workers, the next prioritised groups are the elderly and vulnerable with pre-existing health conditions.
“All eligible groups must get vaccinated as and when due while the non-eligible groups should respectfully await their turn. The vaccines are more than enough to go round and would be coming in phases. We have taken steps to ensure vaccine security and accountability. But we must also avoid any kind foul play or underground dealing in this exercise to embarrass us.
“These vaccines are our common assets and responsibility of every person to protect them and ensure proper use. I urge citizens to be vigilant and report any foul practice to the security agencies,” Ehanire stated.
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello, said 65 centres had been designated as vaccination centres across the FCT.
Nigeria is the third African country to benefit from the COVAX facility after Ghana and Coted’Ivoire.
The COVID-19 vaccines arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja aboard the Boeing 777 300 ER aircraft of Emirates Airline at exactly 11.45am.
Obaseki to receive first dose of COVID-19 vaccine
The Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, on Friday said he would take the lead as the first person in his state to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to boost the citizens’ confidence to be inoculated against the disease.
Obaseki gave the assurance shortly after inspecting the state medical store facilities in Benin City.
Obaseki said, “I will take mine. If I take mine and I am okay, that will give confidence to Edo people.
“The preventive protocols will still be in place; don’t forget that it will take a while to vaccinate almost 80 per cent of the population, which is expected to be vaccinated.”
Group wants FG to prioritise PWDs
The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities on Friday appealed to the Federal Government to prioritise Persons with Disabilities in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Executive Director, CCD, Mr David Anyaele, said this in a statement on Friday in Abuja.
Anyaele lauded the government’s efforts in combating the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country through its various strategies.
He said, “We commend the initiative of the government in prioritising groups that will get vaccinated first which includes the President and the Vice-President.
“However, as laudable as the effort of the government has been on the public vaccination against COVID-19, we are worried that persons with disabilities are missing in the prioritised groups to be vaccinated in the first batch.
“We are also concerned that the developing protocols for vaccination of Nigerians made no reference to persons with disabilities at all.”
Anyaele appealed that no one should be left behind by the distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccination by reason of his or her disability.