By Chioma Obinna

Nigerian Pharmacists have called on the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and the National Centre for Disease and Control, NCDC, to expedite action in ensuring that the impact of the inclusion of pharmacies as vaccination centres is truly felt, and the gains maximised.

In a joint press statement signed by President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Prof. Cyril Usifoh, ACPN National Chairman, Wale Oladigbolu and National Secretary PSN, Gbenga Falabi, they applauded the decision of the Federal Government on the extension of vaccination centres to Pharmacies.

They said:  “The move was in consonance with the World Health organisation, WHO, Astana 2018 commitments of making bold political choices for health across all sectors, building sustainable primary healthcare system and empowering individuals and communities towards ensuring healthy living and promotion of wellbeing for all, at all ages.

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“We have no doubt in our minds that this development will reduce vaccine hesitancy and provide vaccines for hard to reach, underserved and disadvantaged populations.

“Pharmacists in Nigeria have observed for too long the low vaccination coverage in Nigeria, the under utilisation of skill, knowledge and preparedness of Community pharmacists to extend their primary healthcare services and the attendant morbidity and mortality from vaccine preventable diseases.”

They lamented that the prevalence of vaccine preventable diseases in Nigeria was high while the vaccine coverage is abysmal.

“The percentage of people who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria, for example, is currently at 2.9 per cent compared to a global average of 52.8 per cent, 27 per cent for South Africa and 7.7 per cent for Ghana.”

Noting that Community Pharmacists in Nigeria, like their counterparts in other parts of the world, have the requisite training and skill to aid vaccine uptake and administration within the Community Pharmacy, they called for the immediate implementation of the policy to reduce avoidable ill health and death of Nigerians from vaccine preventable diseases.

“The PSN became the advocate for Pharmacists as primary healthcare givers, a mantra the PCN accepted immediately and working assiduously to its full implementation.

They further added that pharmacists in Nigeria have been at the fore front of the pandemic outbreak, providing pharmaceutical care services non-stop and donating both drugs and extemporaneously prepared hand sanitisers.

“This remarkable feat happened across the 36 States and the FCT.  It is no doubt that the Pharmacist is the most accessible member of the healthcare team. Vaccines, being pharmaceuticals, are in no safer hands than those of the Pharmacists.”

They further urged the Federal Government to upscale the inclusion and ensure that Pharmacists in community practice are utilised in achieving the set goal.

“Let us leverage on the deep and vast training of the Pharmacist in drugs and on public health issues and the network of pharmacies spread across the nation.

“We are most willing for greater collaboration with the aforementioned agencies of government to ensure a smooth take-off of this programme to expand COVID-19 vaccination in the country,” they added.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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