-Bauchi, Benue comply as AstraZeneca vaccine shortage looms
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The Federal Government has asked all the states administering the COVID-19 vaccine to stop the exercise the moment they use half of the doses allocated to them.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaibu, asked all the states to suspend vaccination when they reach half of the doses delivered to them.
This implies that a state that was given 100,000 doses would have to halt the vaccine rollout once the doses hit 50,000 in order for those who have received their first jab to be able to complete their vaccination.
The move, it was learnt, had become necessary due to a possible delay in the supply of the next batch of the AstraZeneca vaccines, which could affect the availability of the vaccine for a second jab for those who have taken the first.
The shortage of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the international market is caused by a surge in the demand by the European Union and a new policy by India which manufactures the vaccine. India had said last week that it would prioritise domestic vaccination for its over 1.2 billion citizens, thereby causing a shortage in developing nations like Nigeria.
Confirming the development to one of our correspondents who made an enquiry on the matter, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, said states were asked to stop vaccination halfway until more vaccines arrive because it was the smartest thing to do since it is a double-dose vaccine.
Mamora said, “On the issue of stopping at half doses, we thought this is what wisdom dictates because in a situation where we seem to be in short supply, it stands to good reason to ensure that those who have had their first dose should be given the opportunity of having the second dose.
“It is better to have a pool of people who have received full vaccination rather than just do it halfway for everybody, which I think would not be the best in the circumstance. And you are not really covered if you have your full dosage.”
When asked when Nigerians should expect more vaccines, Mamora said he could not say because it is currently a ‘sellers’ market’.
He, however, said Nigeria was already having talks with other parties including Russia, which is producing the Sputnik V vaccine.
The minister stated, “The truth is there is a challenge. However, we are not hopeless. The COVAX facility is not the only one we rely on. There is also AVATT, the regional facility which is the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. So, we definitely will be looking to AVATT to help increase the initial allocation in the circumstances with what is happening vis-a-vis production and supply from India.
“Both AVATT and COVAX are multilateral facilitators, but we also have bilateral negotiations. For example, the Sputnik is bilateral in the sense that it is government to government. Sputnik is Russian and as soon as we have the dossier and approval from NAFDAC, then we will consider it.”
Mamora stated that the Federal Government might have to increase its budget for vaccines since AstraZeneca, which is the cheapest in the market, is not readily available.
He said, “One of the reasons we settled for AstraZeneca is not just because it is cheap but is as good as the others. They are giving it out at cost value. The challenge is that the initial element in terms of cost projection would have to increase because AstraZeneca is the cheapest. So, we may have to reconsider our initial cost projection. That is the challenge I see.”
The Federal Government had received 3.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines through COVAX, a global initiative co-led by the Global Vaccine Alliance, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and World Health Organisation. The initiative was designed to ensure fair and equitable access for every country.
The vaccine arrived in Nigeria on March 2, 2021 while in the second week of March the government began distribution to states, except Kogi, whose governor, Yahaya Bello, had described COVID-19 as glorified malaria.
Persons who opt for AstraZeneca vaccines must take two doses which are usually administered at least two months apart. It was learnt that Ekiti, Bauchi and Kwara states had already administered half of their vaccine supply and had complied with the government’s directive to halt further roll-out.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency and Contacts and Surveillance Sub-Committee Chairman, Bauchi State Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Rilwan Mohammed, told Sunday PUNCH that the Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaibu, wrote to Commissioners for Health in the states to suspend vaccination so that people who had received the first jab could get the second one.
Mohammed stated that Bauchi State was given 89,570 doses but had to stop administering the vaccines immediately after it received the letter having administered about half already. “We have 32,000 coverage but the call-up data is actually 41,000 just that we are still uploading to the national site because of network problems,” he added.
He stated, “There is a shortage of supply of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaibu, wrote to all the states that we should suspend vaccination when we reach half of the doses we got.
“The Federal Government realised that within eight to 12 weeks, you must be able to give the second dose but if there is no second dose to give, that means we have wasted the first dose, so they told us to stop if we have reached halfway.
“There is a crisis in the AstraZeneca production. India is having COVID-19 mutation in their country, so they decided to allocate more doses to themselves before exporting it. Secondly, the European Union which initially claimed that the vaccine had some issues has now come back after they found out that the vaccine is okay and they had made a forward request.”
Nevertheless, he explained that the state had set aside a small portion of the vaccine for intending pilgrims because vaccination had become a requirement for those visiting holy cities.
He added, “There are 4,000 Muslim pilgrims, meaning we would need 8,000 doses for them, while there are 170 Christian pilgrims, meaning we would need 340 doses for them, including their staff.
“We have a complaint from the Hajj and Christian commissions and Jerusalem and Saudi authorities have given an order that all those coming for pilgrimage and their staff must show evidence of COVID-19 test and vaccination (first and second doses).”
He said he would write to the Executive Director of NPHCDA to request for vaccines to be administered on the pilgrims.
Mohammed said there had only been 145 reactions – mostly mild – out of the tens of thousands vaccinated in the state so far, noting that the rule that sick persons should not be vaccinated had saved the state from controversies.
He added, “We have only 145 reactions due to COVID-19 vaccine and most of them are mild. Somebody went to our vaccination post in Darazo but unfortunately he was ill, so we told him that one of the conditions was that if you were sick we wouldn’t be able to give you a vaccine. The next day, he died. If we had allowed him to be vaccinated, people would say it was due to COVID-19 vaccination.”
He ruled out the possibility of the state going to look for a vaccine on its own, noting that it was best to use the one already certified by NAFDAC and that there was already a strategic plan for vaccination roll-out in the country.
Asked when the vaccination would resume, he said they had been told to start administering the second dose from May 24 because the vaccine would expire in June, since every batch has its expiry date.
Benue stops vaccination
Meanwhile, the Benue State Government says it has suspended the vaccination exercise, in line with the caution from the Executive Director, NPHCDA.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Joseph Ngbea, told one of our correspondents on the telephone on Friday that the state had stopped vaccination, though it did not make a formal announcement.
Ngbea said, “Yes, we have stopped the vaccination of people but we did not announce it, although there are a few people looking to be vaccinated. For example, on Thursday, we still vaccinated one of the former governors of the state who demanded for it. Unlike when we were encouraging people to come out and take the vaccine, we have stopped that.
“We had a meeting with the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency who cautioned us to stop giving out the vaccine because of the Indian ban on export of the vaccine.”
South Africa detects two imported cholera cases
South Africa has called for vigilance on the part of the country’s citizens after health authorities confirmed two imported cases of cholera.
The South African Ministry of Health, Joe Phaahla, explained that the two cases are sisters who had traveled to Malawi to attend a funeral. In addition, several family members are reported to have symptoms compatible with the disease and are being investigated in laboratories.
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On the other hand, the Health Minister recalled that cholera is not an endemic disease in the country, informing that the last outbreak, imported from Zimbabwe, took place in 2008-2009, when the country recorded 12,000 cases.
Malawi is facing a cholera outbreak declared in March last year that has left more than 1,200 dead in the country, according to the most recent data from the Ministry of Health. The Malawian Executive has imposed and lifted several measures over the past few months, including the closure of schools in some of the country’s cities.
85% doctors planning to leave Nigeria for greener pastures – NARD
At least 85 per cent of Nigerian doctors are planning to leave the country to seek greener pastures, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
This is according to the data obtained from the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors.
The report also showed that the preferred countries for immigration intentions are the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The NARD members are of House Officers, Registrars, Senior Registrars, and Medical Officers below the level of Principal Medical Officers.
Speaking with our correspondent, the President of the association, Dr Emeka, said if the government did not take steps to address the ongoing brain drain in the country, the situation will get worse in the health sector.
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“When we are saying these things, it looks as if it’s a joke. Mobility of labour is acceptable anywhere and what the government should do is to address the root causes of the immigration of doctors, as long as they don’t address it, when they see better opportunities out there, they will want to go there.
“It’s about the choices people make about themselves when they think that the government is not taking care of them. The government needs to improve on the things we have highlighted to reduce the brain drain,” he said.
He noted that as of October 2022, there were only 10,000 resident doctors in the country.
“Five months after, and we don’t have any reason to suggest that there is a downward scale of doctors migrating, if anything should be, it should be an increment in the immigration because nothing essentially has changed in terms of the working condition, infrastructure, security and all that,” he added.
Going by this figure, it means that 8,500 resident doctors plan to leave the country.
The 2023 macroeconomic outlook report released by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group recently said that aside from the considerable health infrastructural gap, Nigeria has lost many medical professionals to brain drain, leading to personnel inadequacy in the health sector.
The report said, “One of the major factors inhibiting Nigeria’s economic development has been the brain drain and knowledge gap in human capital. Knowledge as a significant driver of economies of scale can be increased by investing in education and providing better health services, which is the nation’s human capital formation.
“An equipped labour force, a stable economic environment, a thriving private sector, and robust social welfare programmes are crucial in attaining Shared Prosperity in Nigeria.”
How Nigerians above 40 can stay healthy – Physician
A public health expert, Dr. Akinlemibola Makinde, has urged Nigerians, especially those above 40 to consider creating health-related New Year resolutions to stay healthy.
Makinde, who is the chairman of the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria also noted that it is essential to meet with one’s doctor to plan how to stay healthy and fit in the new year.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise in an interview, Makinde said some lifestyle changes are crucial to stay healthy each year.
He said, “Health-wise, it is necessary to make a new year’s health resolution to take care of yourself properly, what you eat, and so on, especially if you are above 40.
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“Changing one’s lifestyle is important. People should take more vegetables than carbohydrates, people should also exercise, not in a rigorous manner. Doing exercises like taking a walk, and taking plenty of water counts.”
Makinde noted that it can be difficult to abide by any resolution, but advised that people write down their health goals for the year and keep the document where they can see it daily making it easy to imbibe it as a habit.
He also stated that it is important to consult one’s doctor when deciding to make health changes stating that consultation with one’s doctor will assist the doctor to give specific recommendations necessary for the individual based on their health status and history.
Also, in an earlier interview, a nutritionist, James Oloyede, noted that as one approaches 40, the intake of certain foods should be limited.
According to him, people over 40 should stay away from refined carbohydrates found in pasta, pastries as well as white bread, processed meat like sausages, hot dogs, and fruit juices, adding that persons over 40 should also avoid fatty food, energy drinks, and the like.
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