The world was ravaged by the Covid-19 virus which threatened to disrupt our normal living patterns. The ensuing pandemic, a consequence of the global spread of the virus, caused us to adapt to negative living conditions. Since, there has been immense global efforts at curbing this pandemic. Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA) in an interview, spoke on the coverage of the Covid-19 vaccinations, the challenges to increasing the vaccination volume and the attained milestones.
There have been reports of concrete indications to a recurrence in Covid-19 cases in Nigeria. Over the last week, there have been at least 25 new cases across China, United States of America, the United Kingdom amongst others. With vaccines being most cost-effective tool against the prevention of preventable diseases, the Federal Government of Nigeria has been so concerned about ensuring that all eligible citizens be fully vaccinated, in a bid to protect the country from another rampage of the disease.
Vaccine hesitancy, a challenge of vaccine coverage in Nigeria.
During the last Covid-19 strategy team meeting, it was noted that the country was targeting the vaccination of at least 70 percent of all eligible persons with the Covid-19 vaccine. Reports indicated that by January 20, 2023, Nigeria had already vaccinated 65,143,040, approximately 56 percent of the eligible populace with the vaccine, while 76,957,026 (64 percent) were recorded to have taken at least one dose. Also, thirteen states in the country such as Nasarawa, Kaduna, Jigawa, Osun, Yobe and Kebbi were recorded to have attained about 70 percent full vaccination of their eligible populace. Seven states were recorded to have achieved between 40 to 70 percent vaccination coverage with the last 16 states, noted as low performance.
Dr. Faisal pointed out that one important challenge at the commencement of the Covid-19 spread was the global scarcity and unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines. He also pointed out that the main problems associated with the low coverage of vaccination in the country included vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation and the rampant insecurity that has prevented health workers from carrying out their services. Additionally, he noted that the suspension of the vaccination process for months as a result of technical discrepancies was another reason for the low vaccination performances in these 16 states. He however explained that the NPHDA, in collaboration with other partners were rendering technical assistance to these low performing states.
56% of eligible population fully vaccinated during SCALE 3.0 initiative.
The importance of the implementation of the SCALE 3.0 , the NPHDA’s Executive Director stated that numerous innovative and indigenous initiatives had been deployed to enhance the Covid-19 vaccination programme since March 5, 2020. He indicated that the phase 1 and 2, as well as the SCALE 1.0, where the TEACH strategy was employed, the SCALE 2.0 and SCALE 3.0 had all been effective in increasing the vaccination coverage in the country. He disclosed that with the SCALE 3.0 initiative, an additional 47,839,574 people had undergone the vaccination process. He noted that about 56 percent of the eligible population was fully vaccinated during the SCALE 3.0 initiative.
On the country’s preparedness for other impending epidemics, Dr. Faisal noted that there were vaccines and intervention options that many Nigerians must be conversant with and adopt, so as to be better equipped for any future epidemic. He said that asides the Covid-19 vaccine which was available, immunization vaccines had also been made available for children under one year to prevent them from preventable diseases. He indicated that the pandemic provided the country with an important opportunity to develop the health system by leveraging on the Covid-19 available resources. On the country’s preparedness for impending pandemics, he cited President Buhari’s comment on Nigeria being ready to become a global hub for sustainable manufacturing of vaccines.
Specific priority actions enacted to curb diphtheria surge in the country.
However, on the role of NPHDA in tackling the diphtheria surge in Nigeria, Dr. Faisal noted that the agency was collaborating with the Kano state team and other important stakeholders to curb the current outbreak. Asides treatment of confirmed cases, specific priority actions such as case investigation within the affected communities and the provision of technical supports had been enacted in Kano, Lagos and other high risk states. He disclosed that the agency was working on commencing a massive vaccination program within these affected regions, as well as public awareness creation.