The Federal Ministry of Health says it will inaugurate an 18-man National COVID-19 Vaccine Task Team (VTT), as part of measures to ensure vaccine security against the virus in Nigeria.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said this on Monday in Abuja at the joint national briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
“Now that vaccines are known to be close at hand, the Federal Ministry of Health is taking measures toward vaccine security, for which an 18-man National COVID-19 Vaccine Task Team with seven Terms of Reference (ToR) will be inaugurated.
“The ToR will include generating strategies for acquisition, deployment and options for licensed production by Biovaccine Nigeria Ltd.
“Our options with WHO/GAVI-led Covax facility remains our first line of engagement,” he said.
Ehanire said that as at Monday, Nov. 23, Nigeria had recorded 66,383 coronavirus cases from 743,298 samples tested so far, with 62,076 persons successfully treated and discharged.
He, however, said that the nation sadly recorded 1,167 deaths, with a case fatality rate of 1.76%.
The minister said that eight states accounted for 72 per cent of confirmed COVID-19 cases because they were testing and reporting steadily.
According to him, of the 1,235 confirmed cases reported in 22 states in the past week, Kaduna, Lagos, Oyo, Plateau and Ogun states as well as FCT account for over 84 per cent.
“We are thus not yet where we want to be with our testing rate. We shall continue to engage states to strengthen active case finding and testing, since we are committed to lowering case fatality rate to less than one per cent, to save more lives from COVID-19.
“We are by no means out of the woods and we must not become complacent.
“Citizens with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, or those who had contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients should present themselves for testing and if positive, comply with instructions for treatment,” he said.
The minister said that the government was keeping vigilance, with regard to the exploding numbers of COVID-19 cases across Europe and America by strengthening the capacity for treatment, updating health workers and ensuring that health facilities had adequate supplies of needed materials.
Ehanire said that the government was also reviewing the entry protocols at the nation’s borders, to reduce risks of COVID-19 importation by sealing gaps in current protocols and responding to emerging threats.
“Strategies for capacity building continues, with nationwide training of intensivists, of which three trainers will emerge per state and FCT, who will scale the training down to nurses and other cadres of health workers.
“The strategy to keep our health system ready includes ensuring oxygen availability at points of treatment and scaling up oxygen availability to state hospitals and PHCs,” he said.
He said that the government would analyse reports of isolation and treatment centres to identify gaps and challenges, the results of which would be used to address thematic areas like monitoring of isolation and treatment centres, logistics, data management, training and development and review of protocols and SOPs.
Ehanire, however, warned against non-essential travels to high-burden countries, due to increased risks of exposure to infection, especially of persons with known co-morbidities.
Besides. the minister said that the reported “strange deaths” in Delta, Enugu, Ebonyi, Benue, Bauchi and Kogi states turned out to be yellow fever outbreaks, as confirmed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
He added that the centre was responding to the outbreaks professionally with deployment of Rapid Response Teams to the affected areas.
“Of 586 suspected cases, 40 were confirmed in laboratory tests, with 10 deaths, as at last week,” he said.
Ehanire said that in spite of increased COVID-19 alert, Nigeria still virtually hosted the global Stop Tuberculosis Partnership Board meeting last week, where President Muhammadu Buhari delivered a virtual welcome message, while the First Lady, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, delivered a statement as the “TB champion”.
“Nigeria’s response in the fight against TB suffered a decline due to COVID-19 and a new strategy was needed to step up our performance,” he said.