”Many countries, including some African neighbours, have rolled out distribution plans for the vaccines they’ve procured. But the Nigerian government is yet to unveil a coherent plan.”
Nigeria began vaccinating people after receiving the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines. In this report, Healthstart provides an interview of Premiumtimes Nigeria with virologist and lead researcher Solomon Bakarey, who provides insight into how the country should go about the rollout of vaccines.
The government hasn’t unveiled a coherent plan. How much of a problem is this?
It is a major problem and Nigerians are in doubt about immunization.
Several countries, including some of Africa’s neighbours, have launched programs to distribute their vaccines. But the Nigerian government is still uncovering a plan.
In my opinion, this means that the government is not honest enough to ensure that there is a fair distribution of the vaccines. The result is that people will doubt the effectiveness of the vaccines. So they can be slow to show interest when the time comes for them to take the vaccine.
This will not help the country and the international community will not take the country seriously.
What vaccines have been procured?
In early March, it was announced that 3.94 million COVID-19 vaccines had been delivered to Nigeria by the Global Access facility, COVAX. The Indian-made Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was This means that the country can start vaccination programs.
The government has announced that it expects 41 million doses under the backing of the African Union. The country’s regulatory authorities, the National Food and Drug Administration, and the Control agency have also approved the vaccine.
Earlier this year, the Nigerian government did not say which of the three available COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, or Oxford / AstraZeneca) would be available, but said all of them would be budgeted for. This was before considering issues such as the suitability of vaccines from a storage point of view.
For example, the Pfizer vaccine can only be stored at -70 ° C, while the Moderna vaccine can remain refrigerated for about 30 days. Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines, according to their different formulations, should only be stored under normal cooling conditions. Given the volatile electricity supply in the country, it is better for Nigeria.
What’s the rollout plan?
Nigeria intends to vaccinate 40% of its citizens by the end of 2021 and provide 70% of the vaccine by the end of 2022.
The government did not provide details on how to obtain it, although it is possible to bring some things together. For example, there is an online registration site that provides detailed information about the largest group. Priorities are those working in critical areas, such as frontline workers.
Vaccination teams are also involved in the process. Others include teachers, security personnel, and the elderly, especially those with ailments such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, HIV, and stroke.
The general population will follow.
What’s the role of private companies, if any?
The government clearly cannot do it alone. Any rollout will have to be implemented with the help of a wide range of organizations. To save the country’s healthcare system from total collapse in the face of COVID-19 requires the input of all.
For the moment, only government agencies can procure COVID-19 vaccines. The reason for this is that global supply is low. This makes it imperative for governments to take charge until more vaccine manufacturers produce enough to go round.
But I think it will not be long before private companies will be asked to get involved.
Private sector involvement is already happening on other fronts. For example, the government announced that it has secured the services of the private sector for ultra-cold storage facilities to help store and distribute the vaccines.
This is not new. Private facilities already contribute significantly to healthcare provision in the country. One example is the involvement of private healthcare institutions in previous federal government vaccination programs such as child immunizations against polio and measles.
What lessons can Nigeria learn from other countries?
Nigeria can learn from the vaccination plans of countries such as the U.S., Canada, the UK, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana. It boils down to phasing the distribution of vaccines across different groups of the society, starting the priority lists with the most at-risk population, teachers, and then finally the general population.
Nigeria stands to gain a lot if it adopts its COVID-19 vaccine strategies to prevent and control the scourge. These include:
Having a coherent strategy to distribute the vaccines considering equitable distribution.
Unveiling a coherent plan for distribution and effective vaccination strategies.
Educating the public on the time-line for the exercise.
Communicating clearly to citizens about how it intends to reach the endpoint of the whole population being vaccinated.
Is there resistance to the available vaccines? Why?
Yes. There is distrust. This ranges from being sceptical about the government’s ability to deliver a coherent plan, and to put in place necessary modalities, all the way through to the vaccination exercise until success is achieved.
The government has disappointed Nigerians before. Ordinary citizens find it difficult to trust political leaders.
Examples abound. Take the way the government handled measures to offset the effects of the lockdown. Its efforts left much to be desired. This added to Nigerians’ doubts of government intentions.
Also, many Nigerians do not know how potent the newly procured AstraZeneca vaccine is. Some are also bothered about the speed with which things have been done – from testing to manufacturing.
The government will have to work hard if it’s going to win people’s trust.
It is trying to reduce fears by putting top officials in line for vaccinations. For example, Dr Cyprian Ngong of the National Hospital, Abuja was the first to be vaccinated. Some health workers from the hospital have also been vaccinated. So also the president, vice president, and some ministers.
But it will need to do a whole lot more to win over sceptical citizens.
The original article was written by Premium times.