First COVID-19 Vaccine Shot Given in Nigeria as Roll Out Begins

Posted on: Sat 06-03-2021

With a quick jab to a medical doctor, Dr. Cyprian Ngong, of the National Hospital in Abuja, Nigeria entered a new phase in its fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) yesterday. 

Ngong, who has been treating COVID-19 patients at the hospital’s Isolation Centre since the beginning of the fight last year, was the first Nigerian to receive a jab of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. 

“We have been at the forefront here in the National Hospital’s Isolation Centre. They have provided everything we need for this fight. We have lost some, we have got some and we are happy we are getting the vaccines now in Nigeria. That is about the best news we have heard since.

“I only wished my dad had had this vaccine may be months ago or so. We lost him, but we thank God and the fight is still on and we will win,” 

Ngong told journalists after receiving the vaccine. 

The second person to take the jab was Dr. Tahir Yunusa, a Pathologist with University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, followed by Dr. Nuru Samudeen, a Family Physician at the Accident and Emergency Unit, National Hospital, Abuja. 

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who flagged off the exercise, said in keeping with its promise, the task force was prioritising the frontline healthcare workers in the first batch of vaccines received, having laid down their lives for others and in the Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and treatment centres, as the last line of defence.

He observed that the flag off of the exercise was the beginning of a well -detailed vaccination plan that would reach every eligible Nigerian at the appropriate time between this year and next year, when the country hopes to have covered over 70 per cent of Nigerians and achieve herd immunity.  

He urged Nigerians to approach the vaccines phase with unity of purpose and understand that nobody is safe until everyone is vaccinated, explaining that the vaccines would be arriving in batches and urged Nigerians to be patient with relevant agencies of the Federal Government and sub-national entities managing the deployment process.

While appealing to Nigerians against patronising fraudsters, Mustapha explained that vaccines are very sensitive life-saving commodities and the only authorised source is the Federal Government, which had signed indemnity with the manufacturers. 

He added: “I, therefore, appeal to Nigerians not to patronise fraudsters who are out to defraud, get rich and in the end, endanger your lives. We must be vigilant. We must understand that nobody is safe until everyone is vaccinated; we must recognise that vaccine hesitancy will impact negatively on our lives and those of our loved ones if allowed to fester.

“We must demonstrate at all times, that this is war of NPIs + vaccines for the survival of everyone. We must believe our government on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines brought to Nigeria and we must support the planned and systematic roll out of the vaccines and mobilise our citizens as we move into the states.”

Also speaking, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the vaccine was confirmed to have positive results after undergoing assessment by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

He insisted that Nigerians who are under 18 years and pregnant women were not eligible to take the vaccine, except they have been medically certified to take the jab, saying: “It is a relief and the marking of the start of a tedious, but hopeful exercise to see our citizens develop immunity against the virus. 

“It is a horrifying one year to follow a gradual increase of the COVID-19 casualties in our country, especially among health workers, which was also depleting our human resources.”

Ehanire said the deployment would be in four phases and would align with the planned arrival of vaccines in batches, adding that each phase will capture a specific segment of the eligible population to ensure equity in vaccine deployment.

He explained that apart from the frontline health workers, the next prioritised groups are the elderly and vulnerable with pre-existing health conditions, noting: “Defined frontline health workers are prioritised globally for vaccination against COVID-19 due to their exposure to the risk infection with the virus in the course of duty.

“It stands to reason that the protection is for their sake, as well as for our sake, since anyone absent due to illness means depletion in their ranks and forebodes staff shortage to us. It makes sense, therefore, to cater to those who cater to us.

“The next prioritised group are those who are at risk of severe disease, should they get infected. These being the elderly and vulnerable, as defined by presenting with pre-existing conditions, like obesity, diabetes, chronic renal, respiratory and an array of cardiovascular diseases or other medical conditions identified by their doctor.

“All eligible groups must get vaccinated as and when due, while the non-eligible groups should respectfully await their turn. Vaccines are more than enough to go round. Persons under 18 years and pregnant women are not eligible for now, except medically certified as vulnerable. The risk for them is not yet fully assessed.

“That said, let’s encourage the elderly and those with known underlying illness to be vaccinated and so shield community, loved ones and ourselves from COVID-19.”

He continued: “The vaccines are more than enough to go round and would be coming in phases and government has taken steps to ensure vaccine security and accountability, but we must also avoid any kind of fowl play or underground dealing in this exercise.

“These vaccines are our common assets and responsibility of every person to protect them and ensure proper use. I urged citizens to be vigilant and report any foul practise to the security agencies.”

It would be recalled that Nigeria had on Tuesday received the AstraZeneca vaccine licensed and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) from the COVAX distribution initiative. 

Ghana was the first African country to benefit from the COVAX programme after receiving 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines last Wednesday, followed by Cote d’Ivoire, which took delivery of over 500, 000 doses last week Friday.

With the arrival of the nearly four million doses on Tuesday, Nigeria is currently the biggest benefactor of the initiative in the first phase, while also expecting a total 16 million jabs that would come in four phases. 

As at Thursday, Nigeria had a total reported cases of 157,671 infected people, with 1,951 fatalities, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). 

Source: Guardian