The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has debunked the notion that Nigeria is relying on ‘charity’ to vaccinate the population against COVID-19.
The Minister made clarifications on Nigeria’s plan to achieve safe and efficacious vaccination of citizens Thursday during the second edition of State House weekly ministerial briefing, held in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, Nigeria joined other 52 African countries to open an account with Afreximbank, with the purpose of procuring 570 million doses of vaccines for the continent, out of which the country is expecting to receive between 80 and 85 million doses of the vaccine
“Now, we are looking to immunise 70% in order to have what is known as herd immunity and the African Union, the African Centre for disease Control recognise that immediately and went to the president of the African Union and said we must set up something to support ourselves as a country because if every country goes to order, Gambia goes, Guinea Bissau says I want this, you have a lot of confusion, they may not listen to you because your order is too small.
“So therefore, if we all come together, as an African country, we can make order. So 52 countries in Africa came together. Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles and Gabon said, don’t worry, we can make our own arrangements. Out of 55, 52 came together and joined in the AVATT – Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, to make a bulk order.
“The first bulk order they made was for 270 million doses, which immediately will impress any manufacturer. So the manufacturers are impressed and they are ready to produce that vaccine with as much priority as possible. Now, in order that we are not looking for money here and there, the Afreximbank said, we shall bankroll it, and then you pay us back so that you are not scrambling looking for money, but those who have money immediately can pay. If you don’t have immediately you can pay over five, seven years. So that’s a continental agreement and the purpose of it is that you also want your neighbours to be free.
“If we (Nigerians) are fully well vaccinated, Benin Republic, Togo, Niger are not, we are still not quite safe because there’s free movement among all these countries, so it’s in our interest to also see that all these countries are on the same page.
“That’s why the West Africa Health Organisation is also pursuing the same initiative as the African Union and for that we are paying, we have opened an account with Afreximbank, the headquarter of Afreximbank is in Cairo and the account signatories are from both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance.
“At this point, any organisation that wants to support can pay into that account. We have already spoken with the private sector that if you want to support us, even if you’re looking for vaccines, instead of you going to purchase your own from sources that are not very clear, it can be guaranteed through this account.
“The 270 million doses we had before has been increased last week by another 300 million. So we have 570 million doses potentially, on that account of AVATT and that’s very good, it will probably grow even beyond that and they are offering four types of vaccines. They are offering Sputnik, of they are offering Johnson and Johnson they are offering AstraZeneca they are offering Pfizer Biontech.
“So you can even choose which one you want, what quantity you want, but normally they allocate according to population, measure your population, this is yours, they have, in fact originally allocated 41 million doses to us.
“But with the new additional 300 million, it can be up to 80, 85 million doses and you can select the mix that you want, and then you start paying into that account. So we are going to pay into that account, so we are not depending on charity, we are depending on an arrangement that is existing for low and medium income countries and our own procurement capacity to feel up to the level of want,” he said.
He, however, warned that as a country, Nigeria has been lucky so far but, “we must not stretch our luck. We must continue with our non-pharmaceutical measures.
“We must look at vaccine as a game changer, but make no mistake that it’s a replacement for everything else. It is an additional strategy. Vaccines are an addition to the existing Response, not a Replacement.”
He said the Federal Government plans to provide 10-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in every state of the Federation, as part of strategies to provide critical response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Ehanire assured that the focus on COVID-19 prevention and treatment would not wipe out the maintenance of normal routine vaccination.