The federal government has expressed disappointment that less than two-thirds of the projected eligible persons targeted in the current phase of the COVID-19 vaccination received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Chairman, President Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, decried the vaccine hesitancy by the public at a press briefing yesterday.
He said 1,173,869 Nigerians, representing 58.3 per cent of the targeted population received the vaccines, adding that it is low by its projection.
He urged Nigerians not to forget that the virus is still virulent and raging in some other countries.
« We must therefore keep observing the NPIs and also ensure that we get vaccinated, » he added.
The SGF said that the PSC at its first meeting yesterday resolved to focus on the areas identified and underscored by President Muhammadu Buhari to sustain the tempo of the national response, especially in the multisectoral approach to issues.
According to him, going forward, the PSC has agreed to meet twice a month to deal with cross-cutting policy, leadership and technical issues, hold emergency meetings should the need arise and brief the president on the national situation regularly.
In addition, the PSC will escalate the management of the vaccine access and acquisition to the highest political level and brief the nation at least twice a month on the days of the PSC meetings while also escalating risk communication and community engagement.
The SGF also said Nigeria and the United Arab Emirate (UAE) had struck an agreement over COVID -19 testing for Nigerian passengers.
He stated that while the Port Harcourt and Enugu airports will soon reopen and will commence international flights operation like Kano, which has reopened, the key concern of the PSC, however, is the availability of infrastructure for port health services.
He said the significance of the preceding measures was underscored by the facts that several variants of the virus were mutating from different jurisdictions and were capable of being imported into Nigeria.
« We continue to deploy science and data to address these cases. The PSC will provide steps being taken to stop the importation of these cases into Nigeria in our subsequent briefing, » he said.
Also at the briefing, the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said the country was expecting more COVID19 vaccines by May or June.
Out of the over four million doses of Astrazeneca vaccine delivered, the government said it had set aside 50 per cent to be used in administering second dose to those who had earlier received the first shot.
« We are also expecting deliveries of vaccines through the Covax facility by the end of May or early June 2021. By this time, we would have completed the process of administering the second doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine to those who got the first dose, » he said.
He added that NAFDAC is continuing discussions with manufacturers and examining their vaccines « in anticipation of emergency use listing from the World Health Organisation ».
He said: « We hope that these will mitigate the negative concerns about the delayed deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccine, thereby ensuring the sustained supply of vaccines for smooth continuation of our vaccination exercise. »
Shuaib stated that the federal government anticipated a delay in vaccine supply to the country which may also affect and impact the remaining phases of the vaccination campaign.
However, he said in response to the anticipated delay, the government had rationalised the vaccination by preserving 50% of available doses of the vaccine for administration of the second doses.
He added that the remaining 50 per cent will be administered to clients who had earlier received the first dose and this would be scheduled between eight and 12 weeks from the date of their first dose.
According to him, each state of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is currently administering only 50 per cent of their allocated doses of vaccines.
Shuaib said efforts would be made to administer the second dose before the ccurrent batch of the vaccinne expires by June 28.
In addition, Shuaib said the federal goverment had made contingency plan to supply additional doses of Astrazeneca vaccine to states that may have overshot half of the quota allocated to them to enable them to complete the second dose.
On the issue of adverse effects so far recorded in the vaccination, Shuaib said there were 8,711 cases of mild after effects (AEFIs)
while there were also 52 instances of moderate to severe AEFIs.
He stated that Kaduna, Cross River, Yobe, Kebbi and Lagos have continued to lead other states in terms of the numbers of cases.
Also, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the federal government had directed the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC) to immediately commence testing and authorisation of more vaccines for use in Nigeria in order to avoid undue disruptions in the vaccine roll-out plan.
Ehanire who expresed worry over the possibility of another wave of COVID-19 infections in the country, said surveillance at all the points of entry in the country was necessary to reduce the risk of importation of coronavirus variants said to be more contagious and virulent.
He added that the government is considering other measures and testing strategies tailored to mitigate risks of importation of virulent strains.
On his part, the Director-General of the Nigreia Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, warned Nigerians against what he called pandemic fatigue.
According to him, though it is heart warming to witness a continuous drop in the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the country, caution must be taken to avoid people dropping their guards by not observing the non pharmaceutical protocols.