The search and development of local alternatives to the COVID-19 cure received a major boost on Monday with the disbursement of N10 billion by the Federal Government to support the production of Nigerian-made vaccines.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, disclosed during the Presidential Task Force (PTF) COVID-19 briefing on Monday in Abuja that the Federal Ministry of Finance has already released to fund to help tackle the scourge of the pandemic in the country.
“The Ministry of Finance has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production,” the Minister announced. While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production, in collaboration with recognized pharmaceutical institutions.
“We are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in Nigeria,” he added.
Urging Nigerians to ignore claims by some people that they had COVID-19 vaccines for sale in the country, the minister described people making such claims as criminals.
“There are procedures for vaccine acquisition and use, which include appropriate regulations and certification by National Agency for Food and Drug and Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
“I advise against fake vaccines, as there is no one approved for use in Nigeria. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is the only authorized vaccine administrator in Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Ehanire said the number of new COVID-19 cases in the country has continued to rise, with 10,300 confirmed cases reported from just 50,750 samples tested in one week, translating into 20 percent positivity rate.
“It means one out of every five persons tested in the last one week turned out positive, compared with the previous week which recorded a positivity rate of 14 percent.
“Nigeria’s total number of confirmed cases at the moment is 110,387 out of a total of 1,172,234 samples tested, with a cumulative positivity rate of 9.4 percent. 1,444 cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, with sadly 77 deaths in the past week and total fatality of 1,435.
The minister said it was instructive of the second wave that all cases recorded so far this January was more than 20 percent of all confirmed cases in Nigeria, more than the whole of December, barely halfway through the month.
“There is no doubting the fact that we are deeply into the second wave of the pandemic, which requires that presidential task force (PTF) and the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) review our strategies to respond to the challenge.
He said the Federal Ministry of Health has already outlined three approaches to confront the pandemic, namely infection mitigation, therapeutics and vaccines.
Mr Ehanire reiterated that reducing infection rate for COVID-19 remained the easiest and cheapest objective of the government.
Government’s main effort, he said, was to ensure social mobilization for testing, strengthening surveillance activities for early detection, active contact tracing, isolation and treatment.
He, however, noted that the implementation of critical non-pharmaceutical measures required the cooperation of the public by observing the required protocol to ensure protection against the pandemic.
“These protocols include much more adherence to wearing of masks, social distancing, use of sanitizer, etc. than we are seeing today.
“Of special concern are the so-called “super spreader activities” that involve congregational settings, which must be reduced, restricted or prohibited in the interest of the common good.
With regards to therapeutics, he said we must strive to reduce mortality from the disease by ensuring adequate stock of supplies and strengthening our case management capacity.
In this regard, the minister said the ministry of health was working to expand oxygen availability across the country to address shortages, which have been a challenge globally.
Also, he said the ministry will review the value of various pharmaceuticals and protocols proposed for COVID-19 treatment.
“Clinicians are also urged to work out guidelines for participating in clinical studies,” the minister said. (NAN)