Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, says Nigeria may encounter a challenge if it opts for COVID-19 vaccines that require ultra-cold freezers for storage.
He said the country hardly has ultra-cold freezers, stressing that the Federal Government may have to raise money to procure them if it settles for vaccines that need such temperature by January 2021.
This is even as a renowned Professor of virology and former Vice-Chancellor of the Redeemer’s University Nigeria, Oyewale Tomori, expressed fear that Nigeria might encounter a ‘humongous problem’ in the course of storing the vaccines.
Ehanire spoke on Wednesday while addressing State House correspondents after the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
He explained that the need to decide which of the vaccines currently available would serve Nigeria’s purpose became important because of the different temperatures needed to preserve them.
“We signed up for advanced market participation in COVAX. So, if we will be able to get our own, I think it will be in January.
“But there are two types of vaccines. There are those that have to be in ultra-deep freezers – the MRA type of vaccines. That is, the freezer that must give you -80 percent type of degree.
“There is another type that has to be in the deep freezer of -20 degree, which is a deep freezer; and there is another type that can be in -2 degree refrigerators. This is the regular refrigerator.
“The one that will be in regular refrigerators is easy. We have them here. The one that will be in -20 refrigerators is also going to be possible because we also have the freezers here; but the one that will be in ultra-cold freezers, we hardly have ultra-cold freezers in this country and to receive and store vaccines in those ultra-cold freezers will require that you purchase the ultra-cold freezers,” he said.
The added that the Federal Government is currently working on the cost and logistics of the specific vaccine to opt for.
“So, we are working on the cost. Which one shall we get first? Obviously, the one we can afford.
“Remember that we have 200 million citizens. We need to have a way to be able to get enough to be able to take care of our citizens.
“So, that means we must be able to get the vaccines that work well, with good cost of storage and cost of delivery. That is the one we will like to get as soon as they are available,” he said.
Recall that Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, recently reassured Nigeria and other African countries of access to COVID-19 vaccines from the end of January through the first quarter of 2021.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs quoted Okonjo-Iweala as saying this after a closed-door meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in Abuja.
“As long as one person has it in the world, no one is safe. And that is why poorer countries, lower-middle-income countries like Nigeria, need to get it as quickly as possible,” she was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, a renowned Professor of virology and former Vice-Chancellor of the Redeemer’s University Nigeria, Oyewale Tomori, has expressed fear that Nigeria might encounter a ‘humongous problem’ in the course of storing the vaccines.
“My worry is on the type of vaccine we get. If we get the type that needs storage at below freezing minus70 or minus 80 degrees centigrade, we will have a humongous problem.
“You know our problem with the cold chain in this country. Even at ordinary fridge temperature of 4 degrees is poor. You also have to consider the poor location of our cold rooms and epileptic electricity. So if you have problems with an ordinary fridge, how much more with storage at minus 70 degrees centigrade? You will need dry ice in large quantities. Yet we know it is difficult to secure ordinary wet ice block in this country, not to talk of dry ice,” he bemoaned.
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