A screengrab of President Muhammadu Buhari taking the vaccine.

By Joseph Erunke

ABUJA – THE Federal Government, Tuesday,said a total of18,291,072  Nigerians representing 16.4 percent of Nigeria’s eligible population have so far been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Similarly, the government said 30,327,550 persons representing 23.9 percent have been vaccinated with first dose, 14,629,451 persons have received their second dose while

1,229,909 persons have received their booster doses, respectively.

Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA,Dr Faisal Shuaib said these at the flag-off of COVID-19 vaccination at community pharmacies in Abuja.

“As of today, Tuesday May 31st 2022, we have vaccinated 30,327,550 persons with the 1st dose, this represents 23.9% of our eligible population while 14,629,451 persons have received their 2nd dose and 18,291,072 have been fully vaccinated which represents 16.4% of our eligible population. 1,229,909 persons have received their booster doses,”he said.

The flag-off signalled the commencement of collaboration between the government and Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria,APCN,in expanding COVID-19 vaccination to the grassroots level.

Dr Shuaib explained that the collaboration became necessary given that the “community pharmacies are one of the most easily accessible and frequently consulted points of care for health care service delivery by the public sector especially in underserved population due to their interconnectedness with the communities.”

He thanked the leadership and commitment of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria for their relentless effort to ensure that the collaboration became a reality.

“Indeed, this collaboration is a step in the right direction as it is in furtherance of our determination to expand access to COVID-19 vaccination and other immunization services across the country.

“I believe this is an unprecedented and novel initiative that we have embarked on as a country to strengthen our health security architecture,”he said.

He spoke further:”As you are aware, Nigeria, through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency,the Federal Ministry of Health and the Presidential steering committee launched the S.C.A.L.E.S 2.0 as one of the national strategies for COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

“In the spirit of inclusiveness and in our appreciation of the fact that effectively controlling COVID-19 transmission through vaccination requires all actors in the health landscape to be involved, the S.C.A.L.E.S. strategy entails the expansion of vaccination sites beyond government health facilities to include private health facilities and community pharmacies in line with global best practices.

 “It is as part of this laudable initiative that we are here today to officially launch this exciting collaboration between the Association of community pharmacists of Nigeria and the NPHCDA.”

Açcording to him,”In Nigeria, for example, community pharmacies involvement in differentiated care and administration of antiretroviral medicines for HIV care have been shown to improve retention on treatment, adherence to medication, and overall better treatment outcomes.”

“In fact, community pharmacists have contributed greatly during the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic through ensuring the availability and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPEs), hand sanitizers, etc.

” I want to affirm that this synergy will once again enhance our COVID-19 vaccination programme and help the country achieve herd immunity while strengthening the health care system and contributing to health security,”he further said.

Noting that,”Many countries around the world have authorised vaccination in community pharmacies, including COVID-19 vaccination”,he said:”This practice has shown promise in countries like South Africa, the United States of America and United Kingdom to mention but a few, where pharmacies are playing a crucial role in the administration of COVID-19 vaccine.”

“With over 6000 community pharmacies spread across the country, coupled with the ease of access and long operating hours, I believe this will contribute to rapidly increasing vaccination coverage,”he added

The NPHCDA boss expressed optimism that the collaboration “will add zest to the country’s effort to attain the national target of 70% vaccination coverage that is necessary to achieve herd immunity.”

“This collaboration is a plausible direction to take if we must reach our national targets within the shortest time possible.

“I want to first appreciate the leadership of the Associations particularly the President and Chairman, but also charge them to see this opportunity as one of their numerous contributions to the national health security of Nigeria, and, indeed, the good people of Nigeria. It is a commitment to humanity, and it will go down in our history that ACPN contributed actively to end the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic in our country,”he said.

Earlier,in his speech at the occasion,the National Chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria,ACPN,Pharm. Adewale Aderemi Oladigbolu, noted that the collaboration was

“the first of its kind in public private engagements towards achieving universal health coverage.”

“Here is one public health initiative that is bound to improve access to vaccines, given that community Pharmacists are easily accessible, they offer extended hours of service, are trusted health care professional and as such their inclusion in vaccination processes will drive down vaccine hesitancy and improve coverage tremendously,”he said.

He thanked Dr. Faisal Shuaib for prioritising “the need of the people and worked tirelessly in making COVID-19

vaccination widely accessible through Community Pharmacies” just as he hailed the participating community pharmacists who made the promise to make the service available to Nigerians at no cost for another three months.

“We need to remind ourselves that COVID-19 took away about 15 million lives globally between

2020 and 2021. We have passed the peak of the pandemic and we have global health interventions, the great works being done by management and staff of NPHCDA and the unwavering efforts of healthcare providers to thank for this.

 “Humanity is saved and preserved

once more and while we are feeling relieved, it is not yet over until it is over, we must continue with what works: Vaccination and other public health advisories.

 “Only about 15.8% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated in Nigeria, we share the joint responsibility to move the figure to 70% to guide against relapse and the emergence of a more virulent strain of the virus,”he said.

While noting that “community pharmacists are critical human resources for health”,Pharm. Oladigbolu said “and we are ever ready to replenish the wealth of our nation with the wealth of our experience and expertise”,adding:”We look forward to more fruitful engagements.”

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