COVID-19 vaccine: Nigerians risk global travel ban, Senate warns, NMA allays fears

Sunday Aborisade, Dayo Ojerinde and John Charles

The Senate on Thursday warned that other countries could impose travel ban on Nigerians if the Federal Government failed to administer COVID-19 vaccines to its citizens.

The warning was contained in a motion moved at plenary by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who said COVID-19 vaccines promised the country by Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative would not be enough.

The motion, which was adopted by the Senate, was titled, ‘urgent need for Nigeria to obtain and administer COVlD-19 vaccines to its citizens.’

Recall that the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative has promised to provide 20 per cent of the country’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

But in his motion, Oloriegbe lamented that apart from the pledge by the global organisation, Nigeria had not produced a plan for the procurement, distribution and administration of the vaccines to Nigerians

He, therefore, said to avoid a global travel ban on Nigerians, the Federal Government should make budgetary provision to procure and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The Senator also expressed concern that compliance with COVID-19 preventive measures such hand washing, wearing of face masks and social distancing had diminished.

Oloriegbe stated that while some countries had approved vaccines for COVID-19 and were administering the vaccine to their citizens, many others had completed plans on the procurement, distribution and administration of the vaccines to their citizens.

He said Nigeria had no plan for the procurement, distribution and administration of the vaccine.

According to him, the only plan on COVID-19 vaccine for Nigeria is the pledge by Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative.

 He said, “This support will cover only the cost of the vaccines without taking care of logistics requirement for distribution and administration”

He said that despite the change in the epidemiology trends of the disease, the financial plan developed by the country and World Bank in April 2020 to fund the response to the pandemic was still being implemented without taking due cognizance to the changes by re-allocating the funds to vaccine procurement.

Failure to administer COVID-19 vaccine will worsen economy – Senate committee chair

He stated, “Failure to administer vaccines to Nigerians will result in the country not being able to control the COVID-19 infection and a possible ban on travelling by Nigerians may be instituted by countries around the world.

“The consequence of non-administration of the vaccines to Nigerians will include worsening social and economic situations.”

From his motion, Senate also resolved to direct its committees on Health and Primary Health Care to invite the Federal Ministry of Health, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the National Agency for Food and Drugs, NCDC, Federal Ministry of Finance and other relevant government agency to present details of protocol, funding, procurement, administration and monitoring of Covid-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

The committees are to report back to the Senate in two weeks.

Commenting on the concern raised at the Senate, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Innocent Uja, dismissed fears by the Senate.

Uja, in an interview with one of our correspondents, dismissed the existence of COVID-19 vaccine, saying what was available across the globe was for ‘trial’.

  According to him, when the vaccine is eventually brought to the country, it has to go through a clinical trial.

Uja, who is also the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Sciences, Otukpo, Benue State, said that people would volunteer to take the vaccine as part of the clinical trial.

He said that the essence of the vaccine going through a clinical trial was to get results for efficacy and safety before it could be used.

Uja stated. “It is the Federal Government that can import vaccine. In any case, there is no vaccine against COVID-19. What we are doing is a trial and only yesterday (Wednesday) I made a statement that even when they bring this vaccine, it cannot be used until it undergoes a clinical trial.

“It means the trial will have to be for Nigerians and we will get result for efficacy and safety before it can pass. A vaccine is not just a drug people can use like Panadol.”

20% vaccine Global Alliance promised Nigeria too small, we need 80% coverage – Tomori

On his part, the Chairman of the Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday, said the 20 per cent of vaccine requirement Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative promised Nigeria was too small.

He, however, said he was aware that the Federal Government was talking with Pfizer and the Russian government on vaccine procurement but noted that the efforts would be futile if the government had no plan to procure COVID-19 vaccine from them.

He stated, “The 20 per cent vaccine pledge from the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative cannot go anywhere. We should be talking about 60 to 80 per cent coverage. The 20 per cent is far short of the needed amount.

“It is surprising that the Federal Government has not made budgetary provision for COVID-19 vaccine procurement. I’m aware that the Federal Government is talking with Pfizer and the Russians, although no agreement has been reached. They can’t be talking with them (Pfizer and the Russians) if they don’t have the intention of buying COVID-19 vaccine from them.”

As of December 2, no fewer than 67,960 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 1,177 deaths have been recorded in the country.

Recall that the United Kingdom on Wednesday granted emergency authorisation for a vaccine made by US pharmaceutical company, Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.

According to www.cdc.go, as of November 24, 2020, large-scale phase three clinical trials are in progress for five COVID-19 vaccines in the United States of America. They are AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Copyright: PUNCH.

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