A medical doctor Dr. Cyprian Nyong of the National Hospital, Abuja on Friday received a shot of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.
The other recipients of the vaccines included Dr. Nuru Sambodeen, Family Physician; Mrs. Eragbai Faith, Chief Nursing Officer, all from National Hospital; and Dr Ayinde Abdusamad Joseph.
The vaccination of the four frontline health workers marked the commencement of vaccination programme in the country.
Nigeria had on Tuesday received about four million doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine shipped into the country through the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport.
Executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency Dr Faisal Shuaib described the moment vaccination was kicked off as a “watershed”.
Speaking at the event, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the role out followed the greenlight given by the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration (NAFDAC), after carrying out the necessary due diligence on the safety and efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca product.
The SGF also explained the reason for prioritising the deployment of the vaccines, adding that government intends to vaccinate all eligible Nigerians.
According to him, government opted to kick-start the programme with health workers because they are on the frontline of the national response to the invasion of the virus, appealing to all citizens to be patient with the process.
He also warned against patronising unauthorised agents for the vaccine, noting that there would be many out, who would want to use the development to illicitly make money, selling dangerous substances in the name of the vaccine.
“In keeping with our promise, the PTF is prioritizing the frontline healthcare workers in the first batch of vaccines received. 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.
“This ceremony is just the beginning of a well detailed vaccination plan that will reach every eligible Nigerian at the appropriate time over year 2021 and 2022, when we hope to have covered over 70% of Nigerians and achieve herd immunity.
“Thee 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. This is a novel rollout, just like the virus.
“Let me state categorically that vaccines are very sensitive life-saving commodity and the only authorized source is the Federal Government that has signed indemnity with the manufacturers. I therefore appeal to Nigerians not to patronize fraudsters who are out to defraud, get rich and in the end, endanger your lives. We must be vigilant,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire said citizens below to age of 18 years and pregnant women would not be considered as eligible because there has yet to be any scientific assessment yet that proves that the vaccine is safe for them.
He, however, pointed out that the second scale of priority would focus on those considered to be more at risk than the rest of the population, according to him; those would include the elderly and those living with underlying medical conditions.
“The vaccination campaign we kick off today will be in four phases and will align with the planned arrival of vaccines in batches. Each phase targets a specific segment of our eligible population to ensure equity in the vaccine deployment.
“The defined frontline healthcare workers are prioritised globally for vaccinations against COVID-19. Due to their higher exposure to the risk of infection with COVID-19 in the course of duty. It stands to reason that this protection is not only for their own sake, but also for our own sake since any one of them absent due to illness means again depletion and can forebode staff shortage. It therefore makes sense to cater first to those who cater to us.
“The next prioritised group is those who if they become infected are at higher risk of severe disease. These are the elderly and vulnerable as defined by presenting with pre-existing conditions like obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney, respiratory and heart diseases and cardiovascular diseases and other medical conditions as identified by their doctors.
“Ladies and gentleman, all eligible groups must get vaccinated as and when due while the non-eligible groups should respectfully, await their turn, the vaccines are more than enough to go and they will be coming in phases.
“Persons under 18 years and pregnant women are, for now, not eligible, except they have been medically certified as vulnerable due to one underlying ailment or the other. The reason for them not being deemed eligible now is because there is no scientific assessment yet of the safety for persons under 18 years of age and pregnant women.
“That said; let us encourage the elderly and those with underlying illness to be vaccinated and so to shield the community, loved ones and ourselves from COVID-19. We have taken steps to ensure vaccine security and accountability, but we must also warn against any kind of foul play in this exercise. Any infraction that will embarrass us will be sanctioned swiftly”, he said.
Also speaking, with Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Mohammed Bello reeled out the plans by the federal capital to reach out to citizens in the different parts of the area.
“I am happy also to say that in the FCT, we have all concluded preparedness through the cold chain assessment and I want to assure you that we have capacity to store, distribute and make sure that these vaccines are well kept.
“I want to also mention that within the FCT for instance, we already have designated 65 vaccination points in the six area councils for the first phase of the implementation. These are 25 points in the municipal council, 10 points in Bwari, 10 in Gwagwalada, 8 in Kuje, 7 in Kwali and the remaining 5 at Abaji.
“I want to end this address by calling all the FCT residents to continue to take steps to contain the virus, particularly the well accepted non-pharmaceutical interventions that have worked very well for us,” he said.