As Nigeria prepares to take delivery of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of January, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday that it has authorised the vaccine made by Pfizer for immunisation against the virus in the country.
The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kaza Mulombo, said during the Presidential Task Force on COVID- 19 press briefing in Abuja that the Pfizer vaccine, which requires keeping in extremely cold temperature of minus 70 degrees celsius, which is colder than winter in Antarctica, is the first to be approved for Nigeria by the world health body and will be available for emergency use.
The federal government has also opened talks with China to have access to COVID-19 vaccines for the country.
A report yesterday by Reuters also showed that Nigeria hopes to get 42 million COVID-19 vaccines to cover one-fifth of its population through the global COVAX scheme.
The WHO announcement came against the backdrop of the federal government’s statement that the first batch of vaccines for immunising 20 per cent of the population against the virus will be delivered by the end of the month.
Mulombo told the gathering that the first batch of vaccines for Nigeria will arrive in a couple of weeks, a timeframe within the federal government’s projection.
He said: “On the question of WHO endorsing or authorising two vaccines, what I can say this evening is that WHO has endorsed for emergency use one vaccine, which is Pfizer vaccine, which is expected first to arrive in Nigeria in a couple of weeks. There are other candidate vaccines that will come on the list and in a few days after the strategic inventory by the group of experts in WHO reviews all the evidence. So the process is for WHO to review rigorously all the evidence published and made available by the vaccine manufacturers. After reviewing that evidence, there is a set of criteria, then we can decide or not put it on the emergency list. But for now, it just one of them, but there are others that may come on the same list.”
On his part, the Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, stated that the federal government has begun seeing the effect of the activities carried out during the Christmas festivities with the increase in the daily numbers in people contracting COVID-19 nationwide.
He added that Nigeria has joined South Africa in reporting the highest daily infection cases in Africa.
He reinforced this concern by noting that 1,204 infections were recorded on Monday, which represented the highest daily number ever recorded since the national response began.
He said: “From our analysis, we are beginning to see the effect of activities carried out during the Christmas festivities. We can only hope that numbers will not escalate beyond control. We, however, still appeal to all citizens to take full responsibility through compliance and vigilance.”
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), about two weeks ago, had warned that the country risked an escalation in the number of infected persons following an upswing in social activities during the Yuletide.
Mustapha, who is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said statistics for Nigeria indicated the country has recorded 91,351 total cases out of 958,911 persons tested for the virus.
The country has also recorded 1,318 deaths with 57 fatalities recorded in week 53, being the highest for any single week since the start of the national response.
According to him, 731 out of the 35,419 members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members in the Batch B tested positive for COVID-19, compared to 108 recorded during the Batch A.
He added that the private sector-driven CACOVID has commenced supporting the national response with 100 oxygen cylinders per day till the end of March 2021 for distribution to critical care centres in Abuja
In addition, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved that at least one oxygen plant should be established in each state of the federation immediately.
Also, approval has been given to rehabilitate five oxygen plants across various tertiary health institutions in Abuja.
Mustapha added that the PTF has generated over 20,000 inbound passengers that have also defaulted. He vowed that the publication of the names of defaulters will continue weekly till it is exhausted.