The federal government yesterday listed President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, will be among the first set of Nigerians to be administered with COVID-19 vaccines, when the country takes delivery of the first batch by the end of the month.
The Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 press briefing in Abuja, said their vaccination would be televised to inspire public confidence in the safety of the vaccines.
He had said on Tuesday that Nigeria was hoping to get 42 million COVID-19 vaccines to cover one fifth of its population through the global COVAX scheme.
He had explained that the initial vaccines would come as part of Nigeria’s plan to inoculate 40 per cent of its population this year and another 30 per cent in 2022, with shipment of 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine due to arrive by the end of the month.
Shuaib, at yesterday’s briefing, however, said the federal government would prioritise the first set of people to be vaccinated.
“In terms of the prioritisation of vaccines and strategic country leadership, what it means that I had mentioned that we will like to see a situation where Mr. President, the vice president, the SGF and critical leaders come and take the vaccine in full glare of the public to demonstrate that this vaccine is safe.
“So, we have to make provisions for those. But even in developed countries, what we have seen is that apart from the prioritisation of health workers, you have to also identify critical leaders that you don’t want them to be wiped off by the virus. For example, in warfare, if you want to destroy your enemies, you look for specific leaders, captains, the generals, once you decapitate them, then the soldiers will become weak.
“So, as much as possible, you do not want to also leave your leaders vulnerable to COVID-19. It doesn’t mean you want to prioritise politicians, that is not correct. I emphasised during the last briefing that we will prioritise our health workers because they are the ones in direct contacts with cases in isolation units,” he said.
On how long the protection the vaccine is expected to offer will last, he said: “One thing that we are aware of is that this vaccine is new. So we do not have absolute information about how long they will last because the vaccines are just a few months old. It is only a question of time before we know exactly how long their immunity will last.”
Shuaib also spoke on the prevalence of the new COVID-19 variant, saying that so far, it is only in the United Kingdom that the new variant is observed to be more virulent.
In his speech, the SGF, who chairs the task force, appealed to state governors to provide the back-up enforcement for the health protection regulations, which the federal government is seeking to develop to support existing COVID-19 protocols and to strengthen compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions.
According to him, the health protection regulations will be of universal application across all the states. Mustapha, who lamented that the country is presently at a tipping point arising from escalating surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, noted that they are able to convince the governors to back the new laws through local enforcement, regulations and authorisation when they met yesterday.