…We have over 20m doses of COVID-19 vaccines —FG
…To begin deployment of vaccines nationwide
…Says booster vaccines not different from 1st, 2nd doses
By Chioma Obinna & Joseph Erunke
As Nigerians prepare for Christmas and New Year celebrations, the Federal Government, yesterday, restricted religious gathering indoors to 50 per cent capacity in full compliance with public health measures, even as it threatened to introduce more restrictions should there be an increase in COVID-19 cases virus in the country.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib has disclosed that Nigeria currently has over 20 million doses of vaccines available.
Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, PSC, Boss Mustapha, in a statement, yesterday, noted that the decision became necessary following the recent rise in number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The government which appreciated that this period of the year is important to religious organisations as they hold crossover services every year to usher in the New Year, added that there has been reduced compliance with public health social measures which has led to increased COVID-19 cases in the country.
He said: “The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 recognises the importance of the Christmas and New Year celebrations for most Nigerians. As we prepare to celebrate with our families and loved ones, it is important that we do so safely by taking the necessary precautionary measures to stop the further spread of COVID-19 in our country.
“The PSC wishes to remind Nigerians that we are now experiencing the 4th wave of COVID-19 as new cases have continued to rise in the country. This is the result of a mix of very low vaccination coverage, increased travels and movements, reduced compliance with public health social measures and highly transmissible Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant now circulating in the country.
“Indoor religious congregations should be limited to 50 per cent capacity in full compliance with public health social measures; face masks and hand sanitisers should be used at all times regardless of vaccination status while in public spaces.
“Families are advised to limit the number of visitors to their homes and put in place precautionary safety measures. Any gathering in the excess of 50 people should be done in open spaces with physical distancing.
“Avoid non-essential inter-state travel at this period as this increases the risk of spreading infection from one place to another. People who intend to travel are encouraged to take a rapid COVID-19 test to confirm status as many infected persons are asymptomatic.
“Ensure that you have taken the full dose of COVID-19 vaccination including the booster dose to reduce your risk of severe infection and death in case of exposure to COVID-19.”
We have over 20m doses of COVID-19 vaccines — FG
Meanwhile, Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr. Shuaib has disclosed that Nigeria currently has over 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines available currently
This is coming on the heels of Wednesday’s destruction of over one million expired doses of vaccines in Abuja.
In a chat with Vanguard in Abuja, Dr. Shuaib disclosed that over 33 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were either donated or bought by the Federal Government.
“Right now, at hand, I believe that we have right around 20 million vaccines that we will be deploying in a couple of months.”
The NPHCDA boss further disclosed that the government will soon commence the deployment of the available vaccines to different facilities for continuation of vaccination of eligible Nigerians in a couple of weeks.
Disclosing that at the moment, over 130,000 persons were being vaccinated daily, he said the agency is seeing a gradual increase in the number of people being vaccinated.
“We are still looking up to states like Kano, like Kaduna, like Katsina that have large populations. By the time some of these states probably increase their vaccination rate, I think we will be reaching up to 200,000 vaccinations per day. This will really help us move closer to the number that we need to attain herd immunity, “he said.
Shuaib, who also disclosed that over 13 million Nigerians have so far been vaccinated, added that the government is targeting vaccination of a total of 112 million Nigerians to get closer to attainment of herd immunity.
‘Booster doses not different’
Speaking on booster doses, the Executive Director, who told Vanguard that he couldn’t say the number of booster doses in government possession currently, explained that booster doses were not different from Astrazeneca, Morderna, Pfizer, J&J vaccine doses used for the first and second vaccination across the country.
“The booster doses are the same with the initial doses of vaccines that we used in the first and second vaccination. They are the same thing we are also using as booster doses.
“If you have gotten the Astrazeneca as your first and second doses, then you take the Pfizer vaccine as your booster dose.
“If you have taken Pfizer or Moderna vaccines then you use the corresponding vaccines and then for a J&J vaccines as well,” he explained.
‘Booster doses give more protection’
Earlier in a statement announcing the commencement of booster doses for eligible Nigerians from December 10, 2021 across all states of the federation, the NPHCDA boss explained that COVID-19 booster dose gives greater protection against the virus.
He said the booster doses would only be administered on Nigerians who have completed the two doses of Astrazeneca, Moderna or Pfizer Bio-N-Tech or one dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
Shuaib, noted that the booster dose is strictly for persons 18 years and above.
He added that Nigerians were eligible for the booster dose if they had received the second dose of AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer Bio-N-Tech within a time interval of six months or more, while two months for Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Speaking on the safety of the vaccines, he said: “The vaccines are safe. They are effective. We use the highest national and global standards to make sure that these vaccines we are administering are safe for our people.
“Over 13 million Nigerians have been vaccinated and these 13 million Nigerians cannot be wrong.”
He appealed to eligible Nigerians not to hesitate to get themselves vaccinated.
“I believe that Nigerians will now realise that severe illness of COVID-19 happens only to people who are unvaccinated. Please, don’t take a chance with your life, get vaccinated and the vaccines will protect you from severe illness of COVID-19, it will protect you from death.
“This is exactly what we had promised some few months ago, this is exactly what we are promising in future. We promise only what we are sure of.
“Right now at hand, I believe that we have around 20 million vaccines that we will be deploying in a couple of months,” he said.
Continuing, he commended Nigerians who were contributing to the success government has achieved so far in the vaccination exercise.
“I’m really excited about how we are ramping up. I want to really congratulate the governors, the Commissioners for Health, the executive secretaries of primary health care board, all of the health workers who have been the heroes in terms of making sure that we continue to push, we continue to educate and create awareness around vaccination.
“This is why we are beginning to see more numbers. Even over the holiday period, I know a lot of the health workers are going to continue because we really want to ramp up such an extent that Nigerians will really be protected from severe disease and deaths arising from COVID-19,”he said.
Asked the number of persons, who have taken booster doses, Shuaib, said: “I have to go check my data before I can answer your question because I don’t have the data of people that have been vaccinated but I’m sure we have over 100,000 that have taken the COVID-19 booster doses.”