The Federal Government has set a condition that states must meet before issuing the vaccines to them and before the arrival of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in the country within the next few weeks.
On Friday, during a webinar hosted by the Director, Logistics and Health Commodities, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Hajia Kubura Daradara, said that the government will not release the vaccines to the states until the states are ready to administer them.
She clarified that in order to maintain their efficacy, states were required to administer the vaccines within five days and that only states that demonstrated dedication to this would receive the vaccines.
The Federal Government said that between the end of January and February 2021, the first batch of vaccines would arrive in the country and added that the vaccines to be used in the country would be safe and reliable.
It also claimed that the 100,000 doses of the vaccine expected in the first batch were for 50,000 Nigerians as each person would take the vaccines twice at a 21-day interval.
Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, had previously announced that N400bn would be invested by the country to procure vaccines for the 70 percent of Nigerians it intended to vaccinate, in the midst of the growing spread of the virus in the dreaded second wave of the pandemic.
On December 21, the Senate expressed doubts about the government’s preparedness to store the vaccines efficiently upon arrival in the country.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan added, “With your presentation, I was not persuaded that we were able to bring in the vaccines. There is a lot more you need to do to persuade me that we are ready. This is a life and death matter. Not only do I doubt Thomas, I also doubt Ahmad.”
Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege also expressed concern about the government’s ability to store the vaccines, stating that in Abuja, Kano, Enugu and Lagos, the government was making arrangements for only four cold chains for the vaccines. He asked why the south-south region was not included in the plan.
He lamented that if no facility was given, the vaccine could lose its effectiveness on transit to the South-South. Similar concerns were also raised by some other senators about the storage of vaccines.
During a webinar on Friday, Daradara said, “We are not releasing the vaccines to any state until we are sure that they are ready to implement (administer the vaccines). For the transportation of the vaccines, we will use dry ice in insulated thermal containers that are going to be sealed.
“So, when a state is ready for implementation, we take the vaccines to them a day to the time they are going to start the implementation. At the state level, the vaccines can stay for +2 to +8, which is at the normal refrigeration level for five days. So, each state would do their implementation for five days, that is when the vaccines will still be potent after we have given them.
“Once the vaccines are in the states, they can remove the vaccines and put them in their normal refrigerators where it would stay for five days.”
On the deployment of available logistics for the deployment of vaccines, she said, “Two weeks before the vaccines come into the country, we would receive a pre-alert that we are expecting the vaccines, we would issue job order to our clearing agents, we also issue notification letters to Customs, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control and the National Aviation Handling Company so they can know we are expecting vaccines.
“Immediately the vaccines arrive, the clearing agents go to the airport with the NAFDAC and Customs to conclude the documentation. The vaccines are immediately taken to the National Strategic Cold Store in Abuja, where we have Ultra Cold Chain freezers where we would store the vaccines.
“Before loading the vaccines into the UCC, the NAFDAC officer that followed them from the airport to the store will pick a sample randomly from every batch of the vaccine and these would be taken to their office for testing. NAFDAC would then certify if the vaccines are potent and good enough to be used.”
The vaccines will be kept between -80 degrees centigrade and -60 degrees centigrade, she pointed out.
She said that given that during the violence that followed the #EndSARS protest in October 2020, some cold stores were attacked by hoodlums, there will be protection from when the vaccines arrive at the airport to when they are finally administered to the recipients. She added, “There will be security personnel at every level of the chain.”