Drama as Nigerian Senate tackles Health Minister on Covid-19 vaccine

The Nigerian Senate has met with the Executive arm of government in a bid to facilitate the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines in the early part of 2021. The meeting presided by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan saw the attendance of the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, Minister of State for Health, Olorunimbe Mamora, Director-General, Budget, and National Planning, Ben Akabueze, Director-General, National Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mojisola Adeyeye and the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib.

Ahmad Lawan in his speech said the meeting was scheduled to ascertain the level of preparedness by the Federal Government towards the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Senate President explained that the engagement between the legislature and executive would help evaluate and appraise government’s readiness to acquire the vaccine for administration to Nigerians across the country.

He said, “Essentially, we want you to tell us how we are going to be able to provide the vaccines in such a manner that the vaccines are not only acquired but remain efficacious and effective, that they are not invalidated because of any challenge in the area of storage or during transportation, and we know ours is a very difficult and sometimes impossible environment. “Other countries have already started receiving the vaccines, even though I’m not sure if there’s any African country that has received.

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But if any African country should receive first, it should be Nigeria. “Alongside these, you should also give us an idea of how we are going to start the vaccination. “We need to have the strategy of how we intend to do it so that we don’t run into any chaos. “That means we need to continue to campaign for our people to continue to use face-masks and hand sanitizers as well as keep to social distancing. “Because if we have the vaccine, it would take quite sometime before everybody gets it. And before then, we should insist on the protocols because this is a matter of life and death.”

Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, during his presentation said four holding points had been identified by the agency for storage of the vaccine. Shuaib listed Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, and Kano as the four holding points. The NPHCDA Executive Director disclosed that an ultra-cool system will be provided by GAVI – a public-private global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunization in poor countries – at the various locations as part of an initial 20 percent agreement. He also said that “the vaccine distribution plan has been developed and will be further updated with the micro-planning process as the need arises.”

On the cost implication for purchase of the vaccine, Shuaib said that additional vaccines over the 20 percent supply agreement to poor countries will be purchased by the Federal Government. “In terms of the cost of the vaccines, we plan to reach 70 percent as earlier mentioned by the end of 2022. “For 2021, GAVI-eligible countries like Nigeria will be supported through the COVAX AMC facility in the procurement of 20 percent for the total population. “Any additional vaccine required that is above 20 percent of the COVAX facility will be funded by Nigeria at an average price of $4 per dose, given that the vaccines that we have now require 2 doses; that will be $8USD per person.

“This additional 20 percent requirement in 2021 will have to be funded by the government of Nigeria. “In 2022, we are trying to access a further 30 percent of the vaccines. The Federal Government will have to, in addition to buying these vaccines, pay for the operational cost which is estimated to be about $1.6USD per person.

He said, “We have to budget for this in 2021 and 2022. In 2021, the cost of vaccines on operations will be N156.7 billion; In 2022, it will be N220.9 billion,”

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