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Nigeria may spend over N540bn on COVID-19 vaccines

NIGERIA may spend about $1.4bn (N540.4bn, at the official exchange rate of $1: N386) to procure and distribute 218,400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

The figure is based on estimates of the World Health Organisation as regards the total amount of funds that Africa would need to pursue a vaccination drive.

According to the WHO, Africa will need at least $9bn (N3.4tn) to procure and distribute 1.4 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

This development comes as Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; his Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki; as well as the wife of Osun State Governor, Mrs Kafayat Oyetola, among others, have expressed worry over the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid rising cases and deaths in the past few weeks.

WHO to partner AU, W’Bank, Afrexim Bank to support Nigeria, others

Meanwhile, the Immunisation and Vaccines Development Programme Coordinator, WHO, Dr Richard Mihigo, has said it will partner institutions such as the African Union, World Bank and others to roll out the COVID-19 vaccination in Africa.

Responding to a question posed by SUNDAY PUNCH newspaper at the WHO Africa online press briefing last week, Mihigo said, “We will definitely need to vaccinate between 60 to 70 per cent of the African population.

“So, if you consider that we have about 1.2 to 1.3 billion people on the African continent and you take 60 per cent of that with the assumption that you will need maybe two doses per population, we are talking about close to 1.3 to 1.4 billion vaccine doses that will be needed to immunise 60 per cent of the people in Africa to reach herd immunity.”

Speaking further, Mihigo explained that it was not just about the cost of the vaccines but the cost of delivering them and ensuring that they got to the right locations.

He added that there were no guarantees that there would be enough supplies before the end of 2021.

The WHO official stated, “So if we compute that number with the preliminary information that we are getting with these vaccine manufacturers because it is not only the cost of the vaccines. There are also additional costs that are needed to deliver those vaccines.

“We know very well that the preliminary rough estimation that is being done, we may need up to $9bn. So, this is a lot of money, a lot of funding that will be needed. First of all, we are not sure that we are going to get enough supply to immunise everybody (in Africa) by the end of 2021.”

Nigeria, which has an estimated population of 203 million people, is Africa’s most populous country and constitutes 15.6 per cent of the entire population of the continent.

Based on the WHO’s estimates on how much it would cost Africa per head, Nigeria may require about $1.4bn to procure and distribute 218,400,000 doses of COVID-19 for double doses for 60 per cent of its population.

It was, however, learnt that there were ongoing discussions with the African Union to work with other multilateral or development banks like the World Bank and Afrexim Bank to mobilise resources for African countries, including Nigeria.

Reports on Saturday had it that individual countries were buying the vaccines at different prices based on their negotiating power.

Most countries buying from manufacturers were also made to sign confidential agreements that they would not disclose the cost of purchase.

However, Belgium’s Secretary of State for Budget, Eva De Bleeker, in a tweet, revealed the price that the European Union had agreed to pay for the leading COVID-19 vaccines.

The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before screenshots of the tweet had been taken.

According to the UK Guardian, while campaigners for access to medicines were delighted at the transparency, pharmaceutical companies were not. Pfizer complained about a breach of confidentiality.

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“These prices are covered by a confidentiality clause in the contract with the European Commission,” said Elisabeth Schraepen, the US drugmaker’s spokeswoman for the Benelux region to the Belgian daily Le Soir.

The price list revealed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is the cheapest and Moderna is the most expensive – as was already known. But the details allow countries that may be negotiating with the vaccine manufacturers to take a harder line.

The EU paid about $2.1 for Oxford/AstraZeneca while Johnson & Johnson cost $8.50, Sanofi/GSK cost $9.29, Pfizer/BioNTech cost $14.76, Moderna was purchased at $18 while Curevac was put at $12.3 per dose. Belgium, which has a population of 11.4 million, is buying more than 33 million vaccines for a total of $343m.

Minister, top health officials meet NASS Monday over funding

When contacted on the telephone on Saturday, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, said he could not say immediately how much the vaccines would cost.

He, however, said he along with health officials would be meeting with the National Assembly on Monday to discuss finances and other issues.

He urged Nigerians to continue to abide by the COVID-19 protocols like wearing face masks and washing of hands.

Mamora said, “Ideally, we will need to vaccinate 60 per cent of our population and 60 per cent of 200 million people (over 120 million) is large. [The National Population Commission recently said Nigeria’s population was now estimated at 206 million.]

“Also, depending on the type of vaccines we will buy, you then multiply it by the cost, and that excludes the cost of logistics, syringes and other things.

“We have been invited to meet with the National Assembly on Monday and, of course, funding will be a major issue to look at. But I am sure they will want to know what we are doing, our level of preparedness and other issues, but funding will be part of it because, at the end of the day, they will have to appropriate any budget that is brought before them.”

Amid the rising COVID-19 cases and deaths, Sanwo-Olu, Obaseki, and Oyetola asked the citizens to continue to comply with COVID-19 protocols, emphasising that the pandemic was not yet over.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, 920 new cases and six deaths were recorded on Saturday, shooting the number of confirmed cases to 77,933. The number of deaths also rose to 1,218 while those who have been discharged were 67,784.

On Sunday, December 13, the number of deaths, according to the NCDC, was 1,197. But on Saturday, the figure had risen to 1,218. Thus, the total number of deaths in the last week is 21.

In Africa, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention also as of Saturday had recorded over 2.4 million COVID-19 cases and 58,313 deaths on the continent. Over two million patients have, however, been discharged.

Globally, Worldometer, a reference website that provides counters and real-time statistics for diverse topics, as of Saturday recorded over 76 million cases worldwide, with over 1.7 million deaths. However, close to 54 million people have been discharged.

Expressing worry over the second wave of the pandemic, Sanwo-Olu, Obaseki and Oyetola have demanded the citizens to comply with protocols like wearing of face masks, regular handwashing with soap and running water, and social distancing.

Sanwo-Olu, in a statement on Saturday titled, ‘We cannot afford to relax the battle against COVID-19,’ said the state government had “sadly” noticed that there was an “unfortunate” public perception that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was over.

Warning of a second wave of the pandemic, Sanwo-Olu said the state and the country at large were recording an increase in COVID-19 cases in all local government areas.

Of every 100 tests performed, the governor said an average of 10 turned out to be positive, which was an increase from the five per 100 tests recorded in September, though lower than the peak in August which was between 20 and 30 cases per 100 tests.

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“This suggests the existence of an active community transmission, and represents the very likely possibility of the emergence of the second wave in Lagos State,” he said.

“This second wave calls for a full reawakening of caution and precaution. The complacency that crept in over the last few months as a result of our early interventions when cases started to decline from our peak in August must now give way to an abundance of vigilance.”

The governor said despite the second wave, the state could not afford another lockdown of the economy, especially amidst the economic recession.

He, however, issued some directives, including that all public servants from Grade Level 14 and below, except emergency workers and first responders, are to work from home from Monday, December 21 for the next 14 days.

He also placed a ban on large social and religious gatherings and directed the shutdown of all schools indefinitely.

Similarly, the Edo State Government has charged the people to be cautious and observe precautionary measures against the spread of coronavirus amid the second wave of the pandemic.

The Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, in a statement on Saturday, said, “It is a known fact that we have not seen the end of the COVID-19 pandemic as the entire country is already seeing an upsurge in the number of confirmed cases.

“On Friday, Nigeria recorded another 806 new confirmed cases and 11 deaths, which now leaves the country with a total of 77,013 confirmed cases and 1,212 deaths. This calls for serious concern and caution by all residents to remain safe and healthy.”

Ogie assured that the Obaseki-led administration would continue to rev up strategies at containing the pandemic and protecting the lives of the people.

In a similar vein, the wife of Osun State Governor, Mrs Kafayat Oyetola, on Saturday lamented the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic and advised parents to ensure their wards were protected from contracting the virus.

Oyetola spoke at the children’s end-of-the-year party held at the Government House, Oke-Fia, Osogbo.

She said, “We thought we had finally defeated COVID-19, unfortunately, the pandemic is now surging in the country. We must adhere to all safety protocols. Face masks must be worn in public places at all times. Keep social distancing and I believe God will heal our land.”

The Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Prof Moji Adeyeye, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that Nigeria would be relying on the imported vaccine.

Adeyeye denied saying that Nigeria would produce COVID-19 vaccines.

“I never said Nigeria would manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. All I said was that Nigeria was working toward maturity level three after which Nigeria would be able to manufacture its vaccines. I never even mentioned COVID-19. We will be using the foreign vaccines,” she said.

Why we can’t ban gatherings now –Ondo commissioner

Meanwhile, the Ondo State Government on Saturday said it would review the rate of COVID-19 infection among residents before considering banning social gatherings and shutting down schools in the state.

It said the state was currently confronted with Lassa fever which claimed 80 lives between January and December 2020, and left Ondo as the state with the highest rate of infection in the country.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr Ajibayo Adeyeye, disclosed these to our correspondent while reacting to growing concerns over a second COVID-19 wave in the country.

He said, “Lagos State is Lagos State; Ondo State is Ondo State. What is obtainable in Lagos is not necessarily obtainable here (in Ondo), and that’s why health is on the concurrent list. What is happening in Ondo State is not necessarily happening in Zamfara State. So, there is no one medicine for all.”

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He, however, decried the attitude of some residents to the COVID-19 guidelines, especially the use of face masks, as part of efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Asked whether the state government would also consider shutting schools and banning gatherings like its Lagos State counterpart, Adeyeye said, “If there is need to shut down, we will shut down. We have shut down before. If there is no need to shut down, we will not shut down. The situation in Lagos does not apply here. We will manage our situation the way it is.”

How I spent over N2m to treat COVID-19 –Ayetan, NBC director

The Director, Public Affairs, National Broadcasting Corporation, Mrs Franca Aiyetan, has narrated her recovery journey after contracting COVID-19, saying she spent over N2.1m on COVID-19 treatment.

Aiyetan, who shared her experience in an emotional message on the WhatsApp group of the University of Ilorin Old Students Association, stated that she was diagnosed with the infectious disease on November 27 at the National Intelligence Agency testing centre in Abuja.

She said, “They dispensed hydroxychloroquine; azithromycin (250mg twice for four days) and the routine Vitamin C – 1,000mg; zinc, twice daily; and Vitamin D3 for 14 days. I was told to isolate at home and return on the fifth day. I did.

“On my fifth-day visit, my test was still positive. My blood pressure was 197/113 (mmHg). I was sweating profusely. By now, I had developed this deadly cough that threatened to squeeze life out of my lungs. No strength, no taste, no smell. I was placed on oxygen on that Saturday, December 5, 2020 at the NIA Horsfall clinic.

“That same Saturday, Prof Felicia Anumah and my siblings took the critical decision to move me to the COVID-19 isolation centre in Gwagwalada, which had more experienced physicians and better facilities and medication to respond to the COVID-19 infection.”

According to the COVID-19 survivor, several medical workers received her at the Gwagwalada isolation centre, adding that one Dr Tahir “chatted with me, kept my spirits high, told me about Remivir 100, which costs N350,000 each, multiplied by six shots to be administered.”

Aiyetan added, “He told me to make my contacts as they would commence treatment immediately. They started by borrowing two (doses) from another patient who had purchased his set. Which they returned in the morning when my supply was collected. So, began my lease of life (sic).”

She described the nights in the hospital as “deadly and eerie,” saying there was “almost a death every night.”

The NBC spokeswoman added, “The sound of ambulances arriving at the isolation centre started to give me panic attacks. In nine nights, I witnessed six deaths – renowned people in society. And I watched as the news broke on the TV the following day… really depressing.

“I cried and prayed. I sometimes started to jot down stuff, in case I didn’t make it so that people would know that I was in a good state of mind. I would think of the good things that had happened in my life and smile. I thanked God, etc.

“I did not know how the bills were picked. Yes, my office, NBC, paid the humongous N2.1m for Remivir. Friends and family knocked off the rest as they came.”

(PUNCH)

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