The Federal Government will today (Friday) begin the administration of booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, stated this on Thursday in Abuja as the Africa Centre for Disease Control, an agency of the African Union, kicked against the introduction of booster doses in African countries.
Nigeria had on March 5,2021 commenced COVID-19 vaccination with a total of 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX institute of India.
This was followed by a vaccination break due to the ban of vaccine transportation by the Serum Institute of India, the main supplier to the COVAX facility.
In August, Nigeria resumed her second phase of vaccine with donations of moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines which were received through donations from foreign countries.
The country also received several doses of the J and J vaccine which it procured through a joint partnership with other African Union countries through the AVATT facility.
So far in Nigeria, only a total of 3,867,815 have been fully vaccinated with a total of 7,449,989 taking the first dose.
The Nigerian government had also mentioned its plan to vaccinate about 70 perc ent of its population by 2022, a move which experts had doubted following the country’s low vaccination rate.
The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 a few days ago directed vaccinated Nigerians to go for booster doses following detection of three cases of Omicron variant of the virus in the country.
Before the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control announced the cases, Canada had said it detected the variant in three persons with travel history to Nigeria.
The North American country subsequently placed a travel ban on Nigeria.
Other countries that have placed travel ban on Nigeria include the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
In Abuja on Thursday, Shuaib stated, “The Federal Government reviewed the country’s vaccination programme and resolved to introduce the booster dose using the Pfizer Bio-N-Tech vaccine across the country. This will take effect from tomorrow, Friday the 10th of December 2021.
“It is pertinent to reiterate the fact that the Nigerian COVID-19 vaccination programme is science-driven. Evidence has shown that the booster dose further increases protection against the virus.
“Eligibility for the booster dose includes being 18 years and above, fully vaccinated with either two doses of AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer Bio-N-Tech or a single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The time interval before the booster dose is at least six months for these vaccines, except the Johnson and Johnson which is at least two months.
“This is another opportunity to be further protected. I therefore urge all those who have taken the right decision to be fully vaccinated, to walk into the nearest vaccination site for their booster dose as from tomorrow (Friday).”
A coronavirus booster vaccine dose helps improve the protection after receiving the first two doses.
You can’t talk of booster jabs, when some people haven’t received any – AU centre
But the Director of the Africa CDC, Dr John Nkengason while fielding questions from journalists during the weekly press briefing on Thursday said, “African nations have procured 431 million vaccine doses so far and administered 245 million. You can’t even talk of a booster when you have people who haven’t received their first dose.
“We only have about 7.35 per cent who are fully vaccinated. We are far from even bothering about a booster. We need to get people to take their vaccines. However with the elderly and the immunocompromised because of the decay of antibodies, they should have booster shots.
On the issue of imposition of the vaccine mandate, Nkengasong said, “We can’t win this battle against COVID-19 vaccination. I think that my first order would be to appeal to people to get their vaccine. The second is that if people refuse, then the government will not have a choice but to impose vaccine mandates.
“We do not need to get there if we do the right thing. How long will we be going on with restrictions? We need to go out there and get vaccines.
US donates additional 2.5m doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Nigeria
In a related development, the United States Embassy has received 2.5 million Pfizer vaccine doses in Abuja, which were presented to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency for cold storage.
The vaccines will be distributed to over 3,000 health facilities across the country.
The mission in a statement on Thursday, titled, ‘US donates additional 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Nigeria this week,’ said the vaccines would be available at major markets, shopping malls, event centres, motor parks, airports, places of employment, and religious institutions as part of Nigeria’s mass vaccination campaign.
It said, “To date, the United States has donated more than 13.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with COVAX, or bilaterally to Nigeria.
“Additionally, the United States has provided more than $119 million in COVID-19 related health assistance. This includes a 40-bed mobile field hospital, ventilators and related training for 88 hospitals, personal protective equipment, technical assistance for vaccine readiness, risk communication and demand generation for vaccines, conducting an epidemiological COVID-19 detection and vaccine hesitancy survey, setting up electronic record systems, rapid response teams, training for over 200,000 military and civilian personnel on COVID-19 control measures, and technology for virtual training.”
In addition, the US said it had also leveraged the PEPFAR-supported National Integrated Specimen Referral Network and laboratory investments to support the expansion of the 153 molecular laboratory network nationwide.
The mission quoted the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who noted earlier this month that “the COVID-19 pandemic won’t end for any country until it ends for all countries.
“Otherwise, the virus will keep replicating around the world, people will keep getting sick and dying, and we won’t be able to safely reopen our economies or travel around the world for business and tourism the way we used to. That’s why the United States is committed to helping end the pandemic in Nigeria and everywhere.”
The US expressed its commitment to donate more than one billion vaccine doses around the world, by early 2022 and in African countries primarily through the COVAX initiative.
Meanwhile, the Africa regional office of the World Health Organisation on Thursday said that the omicron variant was reaching more countries in Africa. This is as the health body in a statement it released stated that “Weekly COVID-19 cases in the continent surged by 93 per cent”.
According to the statement, Africa recorded 107,000 cases in the week ending on December 5, 2021 which was a sharp increase from the 55,000 cases reported in the previous week.
“Research is being intensified to determine whetheOmicron is fuelling the surge in cases seen in Africa. With the end of the year travel and festivities upon us, limited vaccination, rising COVID-19 cases and the new variant paint an ominous picture for our region”, The WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Moeti Mathshidiodo was quoted in the statement
Meanwhile, analysis of the daily COVID-19 reports released by the NCDC has revealed that a total of 1,072 cases have been logged in the country, ten days after the announcement of the omicron variant in the country.
The country reports that the cases peaked on December 9, 2021 when the number of cases reported was disclosed as 268. On November 21, 2021, Nigeria reported a total of 21 cases, the lowest number of cases logged within the period under analysis.
Also, in the weekly situation report released by the WHO Africa regional office, it was revealed that so far a total of 3,175 Nigerian health workers have been infected with the coronavirus disease since the beginning of the pandemic.
Presently, a total of 144,745 health workers have been infected in Africa with the majority of the infected health workers in South Africa (71,113).
On the charts, Nigeria currently ranks 9th in the number of infected health workers. 19 Omicron cases in UK flew directly from Nigeria – Envoy
Meanwhile, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, says 19 persons who tested positive for the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, boarded direct flights from Nigeria to the United Kingdom while two others visited Nigeria among other countries.
Laing, therefore, stated that the decision of the UK to place Nigeria on the red list was not discriminatory but based on science.
The UK envoy said this during an interview on Channels Television’s Network Africa programme which aired on Thursday.
The Nigerian government as well as the National Assembly and governors had faulted the UK’s decision to ban all direct flights from Nigeria, describing it as discriminatory.
Laing, who admitted that the decision had also disrupted her Christmas plans, said the move was not discriminatory, adding that other European countries had also banned the UK earlier in the year over the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
She said, “In terms of why Nigeria was added to our red list, I want to really stress the importance we attach to an objective evidence-based health system. The way this is done is that countries are reviewed by our health teams. Our health security agency actually work very closely with your NCDC
“Particularly what they look at in the case of Nigeria are two factors. The first is on December 4 when the decision was taken, there were 21 cases of Omicron arising from travellers coming from Nigeria to the UK. Nineteen of those were direct travel links. In other words, people who got on direct flights obviously from Abuja or Lagos and two were Nigeria was part of their travel itinerary.
“That was the second highest after South Africa. The second factor is that because we have such a strong relationship, the volume of travel from Nigeria to the UK is very high, much higher than many other African countries. Nigeria is one of our biggest markets for British Airways as well as one of their profitable routes. That is because of the volume of traffic.”
When asked if Nigeria would be within its rights to retaliate in the spirit of reciprocity, the British envoy said such a move would only be proper if it is evidence based.