Nigeria on Friday commenced the vaccination of its citizens against COVID-19, beginning with healthcare workers.
Healthcare workers are often at the risk of exposure to infections, including COVID-19, as they are the first responders to patients.
“In keeping with our promise, the PTF is prioritizing the frontline healthcare workers in the first batch of vaccines received,” the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said at the National flag-off of COVID-19 vaccination at the National hospital, Abuja, on Friday.
Health workers at the National Hospital in Abuja were the first to receive the vaccines.
Cyprian Ngong, a medical doctor, became the first person to receive a jab of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines in Nigeria. Three other health workers also received jabs during the flag-off event.
“They have fought hard to save us. They laid down their lives for us, and in the ICUs and treatment centres, they became our last line of defense,” Mr Mustapha said of healthcare workers.
About four million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines were delivered to Nigeria through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Assess Facility (COVAX) on Tuesday.
The four million doses are part of the 16 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines planned to be delivered to Nigeria in batches over the next weeks.
The vaccines arrived in Nigeria one year after the country’s index case was reported in an Italian who arrived in Lagos. Over 155,000 cases have since been reported in the country and over 1,900 deaths recorded.
The Nigerian government said it aims to vaccinate approximately 109 million people against the COVID-19 virus over a period of two years.
Health authorities said only eligible population from 18 years and above, including pregnant women, will be vaccinated.
To achieve this, “the vaccine roll-out will be in four phases, starting with health workers, frontline workers, COVID-19 rapid response team, laboratory network, policemen, petrol station workers and strategic leaders,” the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said.
“Phase 2 – Older adults aged 50 years and above. Those with co-morbidities aged 18 – 49 years of age.
“Phase 3 – Those in states/LGAs with high disease burden and who missed phases 1 and 2.
“Phase 4 – Other eligible population as vaccines become available.”
Mr Shuaib explained that an e-registration link has been created to enable eligible Nigerians to register for the COVID-19 vaccination.
“To register for COVID-19 vaccination, visit our website nphcda.gov.ng and click on ‘COVID-19 Vaccination e-registration,” Mr Shuaib said on Monday.
Nigerian authorities on Monday launched the ‘T• E• A• C• H• Strategy and Electronic Management of Immunization Data (EMID) to ensure smooth roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines.
T.E.A.C.H. is an acronym for a five-point strategy developed by the vaccination implementing arm of the Federal Ministry of Health, health minister Osagie Ehanire said while speaking at the launch in Abuja on Monday.
Mr Ehanire said the strategy utilises all the benefits of traditional, electronic, assisted and concomitant house-to-house registration to optimise the use of innovative technology for a smooth rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
Prioritising health workers
In his speech, Mr Ehanire said health workers are prioritised for vaccination due to their exposure to the COVID-19 virus in the course of duty.
He said many health workers have lost their lives to the pandemic.
“Defined frontline health workers are prioritized globally, for vaccination against COVID-19, due to their exposure to the risk infection with COVID-19 virus in the course of duty,” Mr Ehanire said.
He noted that it has been harrowing in the past year to follow the gradual rise in COVID-19 casualties, especially among health workers in the country.
“Every life lost to this pandemic mattered, but the loss of health workers compares to soldiers lost at the war front, and therefore laden with sentiment,” he said.
As of July 2020, over 10,000 health workers in 40 Africa countries have been infected with the COVID-19 virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) disclosed.
Although the exact number of Nigerian health workers that have lost their lives to COVID-19 has not been confirmed, at least 20 Nigerian doctors died from complications arising from COVID-19 within a week, the chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), FCT chapter, Enema Amodu, said in December.
Mr Mustapha said the flag off is the beginning of a well-detailed vaccination plan that would reach every eligible Nigerian at the appropriate time between 2021 and 2022.
He said by the end of 2022, over 70 per cent of Nigerians would be immunised against the virus and the country would achieve herd immunity.
“The vaccines will be arriving in batches and I urge all Nigerians to be patient with relevant agencies of the federal government and sub-national entities managing the deployment process,” he said.
“This is a novel rollout, just like the virus.”
Mr Mustapha said the only authorized source of COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria is the federal government.
He warned the general public against patronising fraudsters who are out to endanger people’s lives.
In his remarks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Walter Mulombo, said intense transmission of the virus is still ongoing in some parts of the world.
He said this is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers.
“We need to work together to ensure that all preventive measures put in place are maximized to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our lives,” he said.
Mr Mulombo explained that vaccines will be a critical new tool in the battle against COVID-19.
“These vaccines are safe and effective vaccines will be the game-changer: but for the foreseeable future we must continue wearing masks, physically distance and avoid crowds.”
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