The efficacy of the Pfizer Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine (official name BNT162b2) might sustain against the newly-detected mutant strains from the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa, a group of U.S. scientists said in a research paper.

The Federal Government is lining up 50,000 people, including frontline health workers, the elderly, persons with comorbidity and targeted police and immigration officers as the first set of Nigerians to receive the awaited Covid-19 vaccines.

Comorbidity is the presence of one or more additional conditions often co-occurring with a primary condition.

The Director of Disease Control and Immunization at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Bassey Okposen, said in Abuja on Friday that the 100,000 vaccine doses expected from Pfizer by the end of this month or early February, would be administered to the above priority groups in two doses.

The second dose will be administered three weeks after the first.

Nigeria is also speeding up efforts at coming out with a locally manufactured vaccine to tackle the spread of COVID-19, according to the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr Kayode Fayemi.

Fayemi told reporters after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari that governors would take the COVID-19 vaccine on live television to demonstrate to their residents that the vaccine works.

Okposen, speaking during a virtual sensitization meeting with reporters on the Covid-19 vaccine, said: “When the vaccines arrive according to the plan that we have, there is going to be prioritization of persons to be given the vaccinations in order to optimise the available resources. This will be based on global guidelines and best practices.

“Based on World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) guidelines, health workers will be given first priority once the expected 100,000 of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines are received in the country in the first quarter of 2021.

“Other frontline workers like immigration at the airport, personnel at testing centres, police officers who are on essential duties, etc., would also be prioritised for vaccination because of the exposure.

“Then we’ll have the next group which are the elderly that are 50 years and above because most of the deaths that we see are among the elderly.

“Also, those that have comorbid conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension and all other diseases that might predispose a person, and are younger than 50 years, will also be given priority.

“We will also give priority to the burden of the disease in the country, that is, those states with higher number of cases will be given additional doses to be able to address the citizens at risk.

“We are already in the process of micro-planning and we have mapped out the health workers and where their locations are and the places where these vaccines will be deployed to as soon as we receive them.

“About 70 per cent of Nigerians are being prioritised for vaccines to be administered to them in 2021 and 2022, to slow down the cases and reduce the number of morbidity and mortality from the covid-19 pandemic.

“In the year 2021, we are targeting 40 per cent of Nigerians, that is 84,655,749 Nigerians to be immunised. In the year 2022, we will be targeting additional 30 per cent of Nigerians, that is, 65,035,014.

“By the time we do this in 2021 and 2022, we will have been able to immunise 70 per cent of Nigerians.

“With the additional herd immunity, we should have been able to slow down the transmission in the country.

“It means that by the end of 2022, 149,690,763 Nigerians will have been vaccinated.”

He said that apart from the COVAX platform, Nigeria also has other alternative sources of Covid-19 vaccines.

His words: “We have countries like Russia, UAE, etc., which are producing some vaccines. So the Ministry and the Agency and other stakeholders are working to see how we can get additional vaccines from these alternative sources to be able to immunize Nigerians that are targeted.

“It is important to state that the vaccines that we are going to use to immunise our people will be safe and effective.

“The vaccines will be introduced in four phases, majorly due to the availability and the quantity of the vaccines that will come in at any particular time. Since the herd immunity may take us up to 10 years to develop on its own, there is a need to introduce vaccines.”

Also speaking, the Head of Logistics and Health Commodities at the NPHCDA, Hajia Kubura Daradara, said the vaccines would be immediately taken to the National Strategic Cold Store in Abuja “where we have ultra cold chain freezers where we are going to store the vaccines.”

She said: “Before loading the vaccines into the ultra cold chain equipment, the NAFDAC officer that has followed us from the airport to the cold store will pick a sample at random from every batch of the vaccine.

“This will be taken to the office for testing. After the testing, they will now certify to us that the vaccines are potent and good enough to be used.

“At the national level, the vaccines will be stored at the ultra cold temperatures which we have available. Pfizer is recommending – 70 degrees centigrade, they are from -60 to – 80 degrees centigrade.

“We are not releasing the vaccines to any state until we are sure that they are ready to implement the micro plan. For the transportation of the vaccines, we are going to be using dry ice in insulated thermal containers that are going to be sealed.

“So, when the states are ready for implementation, we will take the vaccine to them a day to the time they are going to start the implementation.

“At the state level, the vaccines can stay from + 2 to + 8 degree centigrade, which is our normal refrigeration for five days. Each state will do the implementation for five days because that is when the vaccines are still going to be potent when we give it to the state.

“When the vaccines get to the states, they can remove it and put it in their normal refrigerators where it is going to stay for five days.”

In a separate interview on Covid-19 crisis on Friday, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr Kayode Fayemi, said Nigeria was speeding up efforts to produce a locally manufactured vaccine to tackle the spread of the pandemic in the country.

Fayemi, who is the governor of Ekiti State, spoke as he emerged from a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The governor, who said he visited the President for a routine meeting on behalf of the NGF to discuss issues surrounding security, the economy, COVID-19 vaccine management and the general outlook for 2021, said he discussed the issue of vaccine exhaustively with the President.

According to him, he agreed with Buhari that beyond shopping for and acquiring vaccines from various sources for Nigerians, the ultimate target was ramping up the local manufacture of the vaccine, adding that there was already a partnership with a firm on the matter.

“The federal government is already part of the WHO-GAVI Alliance-COVAX partnership, and from what we understand from the PTF, vaccines will come from that alliance,” he said.

“Some of it from Pfizer in the first instance, and then maybe from other various producers of the vaccines later. But there is no clarity yet as to when these vaccines will arrive in Nigeria.

“So, one of the issues raised with Mr. President is the need to accelerate the delivery of vaccines to the country, so that it will be available to our people.

“Those of us at the receiving end in the states know that this is an issue we also need to ramp up our own preparedness in terms of getting our states ready for vaccines storage, particularly the freezers and cold chains that will be required for that process.

“We need to get ourselves ready at the state level. The federal government can procure but we will receive and administer in our various states, and there is a lot of work to be done in that respect.

“Of course, procurement of vaccines we also discussed. Our view is that ultimately, we really need to ramp up manufacturing of vaccines locally.

“It’s okay that COVAX, which Nigeria is part of, is going to be delivering some vaccines to us. As we understand, the first 100,000 and then 43 million and ultimately 165 million doses.

“But there is nothing as good as having the ability to manufacture our own vaccines locally, and we understand that there is a partnership with May & Baker, which is important for the federal government to really accelerate, so that we can produce the vaccines here in Nigeria and not be dependent on what is coming from other parts.”

For the Nigeria Governors ‘Forum, Dr Fayemi said the priority at the level of the states remained public health and risks communication among the people.

He commended the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for arranging to convey the message of safety of the vaccine to the general population by publicly commencing vaccination process with President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).

“For us as governors, the number one priority in vaccine management relates to public health and risk communication. I commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for at least, wanting to use Mr. President and the Vice President as their publicity vehicles for reassuring those who may have their doubts about vaccines use that this is no threat to them.

“You know there are cultural and religious concerns in various parts and we are at the state level, we are reviewing that with all of our colleagues.

“The good thing is, Mr. President has agreed with me that he would convey to the PTF the necessity of using other influencers, maybe the Chief Imams, the Bishops, top musicians, our sports personalities, because the more such people are seen taking the vaccines the more the likelihood of resistance will break down in our various localities. So, we discussed that.”

Responding to a question on whether governors would follow the President and Vice President’s example of publicly receiving the vaccine, the governor responded in the affirmative.

He said: “Absolutely! We too will like to demonstrate to our citizens that we believe that vaccines would work. Don’t forget, we have a lot of experience on this.

“Governors’ forum managed the polio vaccines administration in the country and we have garnered a lot of experience.

“We have worked with the Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Federal Ministry of Health and will be happy to work with NCDC, PTF, the primary healthcare development agency on this as well. So, we would take a lead as well in our various states.”

Asked if states would contribute money to purchase the vaccines, Dr Fayemi said: “The details of the financial management of course is something that would be of interest to all the states. But we also know that there are a range of approaches to take; the health approach is there.

“Because for us at the Governors Forum, it is not just a health issue, it is also a security issue and it is an economic issue too. We would work in partnership. We are involved with PTF. We have a representation at the PTF and we will work with them generally on them.”

Speaking on his discussions with the President on security, he said: “What Mr. President told me on security. But he said clearly that help is on the way. Mr. President is very determined that this year will see a rapid reduction in the free access that bandits, kidnappers, criminals have had in the country.

“I believe there is a whole range of strategies that he is putting in place in order to address that. I have also expressed to him the commitment of governors to step up to the plate, both in terms of providing support for our security agencies and also sensitising our population as well as address the root causes of some of these crimes in our states.

“So, it’s a partnership. He is our commander in chief, we are his field commanders and insecurity is ravaging the land collectively. So we all have to do whatever we can to reduce it and to work in collaboration with the federal government.”

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