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COVID-19: FG sets 2022 deadline to end pandemic

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*Laments high case fatality

*Says only 2.9% of Nigerians fully vaccinated

*Warns against procuring fake COVID-19 vaccination cards

The Federal Government has set 2022 as the target year to end the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing plans to convene a national summit next month in order to achieve the tall order it has set for itself.

The government also lamented the continued increase in the COVID-19 case fatality ratio, blaming it on vaccine hesitancy, late presentation of cases and other factors.

Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 PSC and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha disclosed this during Monday’s briefing of the committee.

He said: “The PSC is approaching the end of its nine months mandate by the end of December 2021. To effectively capture the core elements of our national response, a National Summit to end COVID-19 in 2022 and to strengthen Global Health Security is being planned to hold in Abuja from 6 – 8 December 2021.

“It is imperative that all hands must be on deck if we must lay a solid foundation for a sustainable response to COVID which will be with us for quite some time, and continue to push to minimize the impact on health and economic sectors.

“We are currently seeing some surges in cases in some countries in Europe (especially eastern Europe) due to under vaccination. In other territories where massive vaccinations have occurred, the infections are rising. What we see in Nigeria right now is that there is an increase in the case fatality ratio, which calls for great concern.

“In our last briefing, we announced the Vaccine Mandate for 1st December 2021. I would like to state that this is in the best interest of Nigeria looking at what is happening globally. We are gearing up to further engage with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to push through the mass vaccination programme and mandate for our citizens.

“We have received intelligence and even detected that some unscrupulous citizens are procuring vaccination cards through the black market. Let me assure everyone that the vaccination records/certificates will be verified and this should serve as a warning to those criminally minded persons to desist because they will be prosecuted accordingly”.

The SGF said the vaccination phase is being accelerated and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has concluded arrangements to roll out a mass vaccination plan this week.

“The PSC wishes to assure Nigerians that the NPHCDA has enough vaccines in the pipeline to vaccinate about 50% of the target population by the end of January 2022. Efforts are also ongoing to bring on board the booster dose so as to build a healthy level of anti-bodies”, the SGF added.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said Nigeria has so far tested a total of 3,392,457 samples, of which 213,147 were confirmed positive for COVID-19, while active cases are 4,447 and cases discharged to date are 205,732.

“There have sadly been 2,968 COVID-related fatalities with a case fatality rate of 1.39%”, he stated.

He added that the majority of patients (67%) on admission in isolation wards have comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and other non-communicable diseases, which are known determinants of the severity of COVID-19 illness.

“There are therefore still surprises coming up with the novel Coronavirus, as it evolves. Nigeria is preparing along all established avenues, including participating in research and development. Several Nigerian groups are engaged in genomic sequencing and few in vaccine development, while NIPRID is working on phytomedicines research.

“Nigeria’s vaccine manufacturing aspirations are on track. We are working with the Private sector and have the full support of influential Nigerians outside the country”, Ehanire added.

Also speaking, Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, disclosed that Nigeria has lost nearly three thousand people.

“Thankfully, majority of these cases, 205,000 were not sick or made a full recovery. Unfortunately, we have lost 2,960 Nigerians – parents, siblings, close relatives, colleagues, neighbours to this disease”, he stated.

Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, decried the low number of people who have been fully vaccinated.

“As of this morning, Monday, November 15th, 2021, a total of 5,891,305 eligible persons have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. This represents only 5.3 per cent of the overall eligible population while 3,252,067 have received their second dose and are fully vaccinated, thereby representing only 2.9 per cent of the overall population of eligible persons.

“As we are all aware, the overall population of eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination to enable the country to reach herd immunity against the disease is 111,776,503.

“Looking at the aforementioned figures, it is extremely risky to go into the end of the year festivities which will involve a lot of travels, crowded gatherings and reunions without adequate measures to ensure that people are protected against COVID-19.

“Our best guarantee against COVID-19 for now is vaccination, and that is why the Government is committed to mass vaccination campaigns. We hope to vaccinate at least 50% of our population by the end of January 2022. We will be conducting the National flag off of this mass vaccination campaign this Friday, November 19th 2021 by 10 am.

“We would like to assure Nigerians that the Government has adequate doses of vaccines in the country. We received 3,924,000 doses of AZ in batches between October 22nd – 25th from the COVAX facility and also a combination of 1,022,400 doses of AZ as donations from the Governments of Germany, Switzerland and Italy last week from COVAX.

“The Federal Government has received commitments of over 11.99 million and 12.2 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines respectively.

“We also have received a commitment of 4,953,600 doses of Moderna as a donation from the US Government through COVAX. These are a few of the doses coming in batches in December and January 2022.

“We would also like to remind us that the Federal Government procured 39,800,000 doses of J&J COVID-19 vaccine through the AVATT and these have been coming in batches”, said Shuaib.

He appealed to persons 18 years and above and unvaccinated to simply walk into the nearest vaccination site to take their COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is free, safe, effective and protects you, your family and your community. And if you have taken your first dose, check your vaccination card for your due date and ensure you take the second dose for full protection,” he said.

He stated that the Agency would initiate the COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Campaign to reach more Nigerians.

He said the idea of mass vaccination campaign was to quickly increase the number of fully vaccinated eligible population.

This, he hinted, would move the country towards achieving herd immunity and creating an enabling environment for economic recovery and a return to social normalcy in the country.

“The mass vaccination campaigns will require mass mobilisation of Nigerians for increased vaccine uptake.

“This cannot be done successfully without the support of all critical stakeholders including governors, commissioners, the LGA Chairmen, Traditional and Religious Leaders, the Civil Society Organisations, the State Ministries of Health, the State Primary Healthcare Boards, all health professionals and our professional media community,” he said.

Shuaib said efforts were ongoing to engage with stakeholders to promote awareness and vaccine confidence.

The NPHCDA boss said any Nigerian found obtaining the COVID-19 vaccination card illegally (buying or selling) would be made to face the law.

He said the Joint Task Force on COVID-19, which included security agents from the ICPC, DSS and other relevant security agencies remained on alert at every corner of the country and were regularly making impromptu checks.

He noted that it would also be extremely difficult to use fraudulently obtained cards outside the country.

“There is a case of one Mr Amako who attempted to travel outside the country with a vaccination card that could not be validated.

“Upon investigation, the reason for the non-validation was that the expiry date of the 1st and 2nd dose was altered, there were inconsistencies with the vaccine expiration dates and batch number and the QR code scanned belonged to another person.

“This clearly showed that Mr. Amako illegally obtained the vaccination card without getting vaccinated. He was denied travel and his case is currently with the law enforcement authorities,” he disclosed.

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Chuka Francis

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