Medical professionals in the country have advised the Federal Government to procure the Oxford/Astra-Zeneca, Russia’s Sputnik, or the Novavax vaccine in the national efforts to contain the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise in separate interviews, the experts said the type of vaccines that Nigeria should shop for are those suitable for the country’s storage facilities.
Recall that the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, at a press conference of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja last Tuesday said 100,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine would be received by the country at the end of this month.
However, experts say given the electricity challenge in the country, the Pfizer vaccine will not be suitable for Nigeria.
According to them, the Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept extremely cold at -70⁰C. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is required to be kept at -2⁰C; the AstraZeneca vaccine at -0 to 10⁰C, while the Novavax vaccine should be kept at -4 to 8⁰C
Also, WHO had warned that people with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the COVID-19 vaccine and most pregnant women should not take the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
WHO also said that children under the age of 16 and international travellers who are not part of prioritised group should also not take the vaccine.
According to the world health body, though the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is safe and effective, there are specific populations for whom vaccination is not recommended, either due to contraindications, lack of supply, or limited data.
Speaking with our correspondent, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa, said the AstraZeneca or Russia’s Sputnik vaccine is suitable for the country’s storage facilities.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine will be the best for our environment or Russia’s Sputnik vaccine.
“These ones can be stored in our normal refrigeration; but the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines will require extra refrigeration and that is what we are trying to sort out,” Ohuabunwa said.
He said that pharmacists will be involved in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines when they arrive in the country.
The PSN president, however, expressed concerns that there might be logistics and cold chain challenges.
Ohuabunwa added that members of the association were working on how to ensure appropriate cold chain and logistics for the transportation of the vaccines.
“I am glad that we are planning to get the vaccine because many people are dying of COVID-19 but not reporting them.
“There is a big wave of COVID-19 that is very lethal because some people are dying and I’m not sure they are reporting.
“So, Nigeria should make every effort, pay every price, to make sure we get the vaccine.
“Vaccines are medicine or medicinal products and the distribution and handling of all medicines is in the purview of pharmacists.
“So, it is within the competence of pharmacies to handle the logistics of delivery and distribution of vaccines.
“Our worry has always been how we can provide the logistics, to ensure that we have the appropriate infrastructure, because if it is Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine, they all ought to be stored at very low temperatures and that is the challenge, given the electricity supply problems in our country.
“That is what is going to pose logistics challenges for pharmacists and all those who are involved in the logistics of moving these vaccines from the ports to points of administration.
“So, that is what the PSN and all the pharmacists in the health system are battling with now, to make sure that when the vaccines arrive, we have the appropriate cold chain and appropriate logistics to move them and utilise them without them being denatured,” he said.
According to WHO, the purpose of the vaccine cold chain is to maintain product quality from the time of manufacture until the point of administration by ensuring that vaccines are stored and transported within the WHO-recommended temperature ranges.
Also, a Professor of Public Health and former National Chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Prof. Tanimola Akande, said the Novavax vaccine is suitable for the country’s storage facilities.
“The best for Nigeria will is Novavax, which can be stored at higher temp like 4 – 8⁰C. Quite a number of vaccines currently in use are stored in this temperature range.
“AstraZeneca has a wider temperature range of up to 10⁰C. That makes it better, to some extent. The capacity of the manufacturer to supply Nigeria the required doses need to be considered,” he said.
Akande said the Federal Government must ensure that there is adequate cold chain equipment like freezers and refrigerators, vaccine cold box, ice-packs, and vaccine carriers before the arrival of the vaccines in the country.
“Adequate cold chain space should be available for the volume of vaccines, while other vaccines currently in use will still be accommodated.
“There is a need for regular power supply for the cold chain equipment from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, generators and solar-powered freezers. Adequate logistics for vaccine distribution should be in place as well.
“The vaccinators will need to be retrained ahead of the arrival. Materials for safe disposal of the medical wastes like syringes, including incinerator, should be available,” he noted.
Though, he said to a large extent, the infrastructures are available at the national and the state stores, a lot more needs to be done to meet up with the requirement at the local government areas and health facilities.
“A lot more will need to be done to meet up with the requirement, which will be an addition to the current vaccines for routine immunisation.
“The challenge of power supply to keep the temperature at this level is also there, particularly at rural areas’ health facilities,” Akande said.
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