1. It is once again my honour to give you this week’s update on the progress we are making in our collective effort to protect Nigerians from the scourge of COVID-19 using safe and effective vaccines.
2. As of this morning, the 14th of October 2021, a total of 5,246,523 eligible populations have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria. This represents 4.7% of our target population. The number of eligible persons fully vaccinated in Nigeria is 2,546,094 which represents 2.3% of our target population.
3. As you are aware, last week, Oct 4th, 2021, we received 501,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines donated by the Government of France, through the COVAX facility. We also received 434,400 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine on the 7th of Oct 2021. We would also be expecting more supplies of vaccines in the coming days via the COVAX facility and the African Union. As we enter into the period of intensive vaccination, with more vaccines arriving the country, it is my fervent hope that more people will turn up at the vaccination sites to be vaccinated so that Nigeria can rapidly progress towards attaining herd immunity.
4. As you are aware, yesterday, the Presidential Steering Committee announced interventions to not only protect the most vulnerable people in our society, but to also ensure that the work place is safe for all citizens. Clearly, there is loss of productivity and its impact on socio-economic development when workers are unable to come to work on a regular and consistent basis due to outbreaks of an infectious disease such as COVID-19. Following advise by public health experts, the PSC announced that all Federal Government employees should make a choice as to how they can contribute towards making the work environment COVID-19-free. The logical choice is between taking the vaccine and showing evidence of this or presenting proof that one is COVID-19-free, by showing a negative PCR test taken 72hours prior. This provision is applicable to all Federal Government institutions. The decision to release this advisory was not taken lightly. It is part of the PSC and Federal Ministry of Health’s mantra to always use scientific evidence to make decisions for the benefit of all Nigerians.
5. On the question of availability of vaccines, we have already done a compressive analysis and forecast of COVID-19 vaccines. We have enough vaccines to cover more than this population of Federal Government employees and we are expecting even much more. Based on delivery forecasts from the COVAX facility and the African Union, Nigeria will have adequate vaccines to cover more that 50% of eligible populations by the end of the first quarter of 2022. In order words, please do not worry about the availability of vaccines. We have the supply chain figured out.
6. We are cognizant of the fact that some unscrupulous elements would want to get the card and not the jab. We are working with relevant security agencies to make examples of these individuals who may wish to buy or sell the cards by naming and shaming them. We are also enhancing the security features of our vaccination cards in order to limit forgeries.
7. In line with the NPHCDA commitment to ramp up COVID-19 vaccine uptake the agency has put in place plans for the establishment of mass vaccination sites across the country. The objective of this strategy is to vaccinate a high volume of individuals through large sites such as Federal institutions (universities, polytechnics), shopping malls, religious centers, sporting events, conference centers, and markets etc. This will require strong collaboration between NPHCDA, State Governments, religious bodies, school authorities and governing bodies of malls and large sporting events. As we expand the vaccination sites, we encourage all eligible Nigerians to avail themselves for vaccination. I am also glad to inform you that we have commenced the process of decentralizing COVID-19 vaccination in Nigeria, to include private health care providers. This is to expand access and increase utilization of the vaccines.
8. The decentralization will not affect the Federal Government’s free vaccination policy. COVID-19 vaccines will be administered free of charge at both government and private health facilities and the vaccination cards should be given free of charge after vaccination. We acknowledge the fact that private health facilities may need to charge for their hospital registration cards which is different from the COVID-19 vaccination cards.
9. To ensure a seamless decentralization, we have begun the training of health workers in the selected private health care facilities and the sensitization of critical stakeholders to create awareness and sensitize them on the plan and the criteria for involving private sector in COVID-19 vaccination and secure their buy-in. The process of involving the private sector will be transparently done in line with our pledge of accountability to Nigerians.
10. Let me quickly assure you that NPHCDA is putting measures in place to ensure close and effective monitoring and supervision of any participating private health facilities to ensure standards are not compromised. Interested private health facilities will be required to meet certain criteria including having the requisite qualified health care workers, among others.
11. To ensure that the vaccines are delivered by private health facilities as expected, we will be engaging in regular supervisory visits to the facilities and will be providing clear rules of engagement to the participating facilities. We solicit your support as the watchdogs of society, to ensure that this decentralization does not compromise the current high quality of our COVID-19 vaccination programme. Any erring facilities will be sanctioned, including blacklisting.
12. We would also like to bring to your attention a study done by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in six States of the Federation (Anambra, Borno, Edo, Katsina, Lagos and Plateau). The overall aim of the observational study was to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in enrolled adult individuals 18 years and above who have received the authorized COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria for the purpose of safety signal detection. This study was led by Prof Akin Osibogun, a Professor of Community Medicine at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. The study sought to estimate the incidence of adverse events following immunization with different brands of the COVID-19 vaccine in all enrolled immunized subjects.
13. Findings of this study showed that 52.6% of enrolees (1,284 were enrolled) reported non-serious adverse effects and only 1 subject or 0.08% reported serious adverse effect in the first week following vaccination. None of the enrolled subjects who reported adverse effects required hospitalization. The commonest reported symptoms among vaccinees were tenderness at injection site 20.9% and fever 20.3%. Most of the reported symptoms (55.5%) occurred within the first 3 days of vaccination while 40.2% of the vaccinees with reported symptoms could not recall time of onset of symptoms. Adverse Effects Following Immunization were reported more in the older age groups with 61.5% of those older than 60years reporting symptoms compared to 34.9% of those aged 18-24 years. The difference for age was statistically significant (p=0.003). Those with pre-existing morbidities were also observed to have higher rates of reported symptoms (AEFIs) than those without pre-existing morbidities even though the observed difference was not statistically significant (p=0.551)
14. The findings suggest that from the perspective of public communication, the vaccine is quite safe and the reported symptoms are mild and to be expected in the first three days following vaccination. Older vaccinees are to be particularly counselled as to what to expect and not to panic as the symptoms are mild and time limited. During this study, there was no report of Vaccine-induced COVID-19 or deaths related to the vaccines.
15. Once again, I thank our partners and donors who have continued to support us in vaccine supply and management and operations.
16. To all Nigerians, please continue to wear your masks and observe other preventive measures and sooner than expected we shall overcome this pandemic.
17. Thank you.
18. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Dr. Faisal Shuaib