Featured Health

FG Issues New Travel Protocol to Ease COVID-19 Restrictions

  • To rejig plan for vaccine manufacturing

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, yesterday disclosed that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had issued a revised protocol for in-bound travellers to reflect the United Kingdom’s decision to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated travellers from Nigeria, which took effect from October 11. Ehanire revealed this during a media briefing in Abuja.

The minister explained that the new health protocol was in keeping with the Presidential Steering Committee’s removal of three countries – South Africa, Turkey, and Brazil – from the restricted list following satisfactory report of the review of developments in those countries. He said proactive measures were being taken by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the effect on the health system.

Ehanire said in line with the recent directive that with effect from December 1, all federal government employees must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result done within 72 hours before gaining access to their offices, it was envisaged that there would be increased demand for COVID-19 vaccine.

According to him, in order to enhance access to COVID-19 vaccine, the Federal Ministry of Health, through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, was working on ways to enhance security features of COVID-19 the vaccination card to reduce forgery.

He said the Ministry was planning to establish vaccination sites at public places with high human traffic across the country, such as universities, polytechnics, shopping malls, religious centres, sporting events, conference centres, and markets.

Ehanire also disclosed that the ministry would accredit some private health care facilities as COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Giving further updates on the COVID19 pandemic, Ehanire said over the last four weeks, about 3,141,795 million persons had been tested for COVID-19 using either PCR or RDT. He said the trend of infection showed a decline in some states while other states were still experiencing increase in confirmed cases.

Ehanire also spoke on efforts toward increasing the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine for all eligible Nigerians. He said on October 14, the Nigeria government received from the US government a donation of 3,577,860 doses of Pfizer vaccine through COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access known as COVAX.

The minister stated, “As at today, the Nigeria government has received over 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and based on delivery forecasts from the COVAX facility and the African Union, Nigeria will have adequate vaccines to cover more than 50 per cent of eligible populations by the end of the first quarter of 2022.

“Statistics generated by NPHCDA indicates that as at 17th October, 2021, a total of 5,337,635 eligible populations have received the first dose representing 4.8 per cent of Nigeria’s target population, while 2,665,173 have been vaccinated with the second dose, signifying 2.4 per cent of the target vaccination of 70 per cent of the population by 2022.

“We encourage Nigerians, who received the vaccines, to complete the second doses and all Nigerians that are eligible to avail themselves to receive the vaccines.”

The minister also said plans were underway to repurpose the N10 billion fund meant to support local manufacturing of vaccines. He said a proposal was being considered to transform the N10 billion fund provided in the 2021 budget to serve as grant to support the Bio-Vaccine Nigeria Limited to set up necessary framework and machineries for the actualisation of the dream of local manufacturing of vaccines.

Regarding the renewed drive for COVID-19 mass vaccination, he said the government had in stock at the moment about nine million doses of vaccines to administer to eligible Nigerians.

As part of measures to check abuse and racketeering of vaccination certification, he said the government had set up a special taskforce to monitor the various vaccination centres and deal severely with any medical staff found engaging in unwholesome practices.

Ehanire, speaking on the N10 billion meant for vaccine production in the budget, explained, “The plan is for Nigeria to be manufacturing vaccines and the government is a 49 per cent stakeholder in a company called Bio-vaccine Nigeria Limited to produce routine vaccines and we are trying to support that company also in adding any other type of vaccine that appears necessary in the future.”

Ehanire said the need to revive the country’s vaccine manufacturing capability became paramount following the decision of the countries that developed the COVID-19 vaccines to first take care of themselves, leaving others to wait for so long to be supplied vaccine doses.

He stated, “So the lesson from that is that we must wake up, knowing that it is our responsibility to take care of our citizens’ healthcare and to produce vaccines, if necessary, either through contract manufacturing or technology transfers.

“So that is why in the Bio-Vaccine Nigeria Limited, the federal government is looking at repurposing the N10 billion fund towards supporting vaccine production, not as a gift but definitely as what you might see as grant. This is still a proposal, it is not yet approved or finalised.”

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