The Nigeria Centre for Disease and Control (NCDC) has raised the hope of Nigerians about the possible availability of COVID-19 vaccine by the fourth quarter of 2020.
It said available data on research and development of a vaccine against COVID-19 by the global scientific community pointed to its availability later this year.
The NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, gave the cheering news at Monday’s media briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic.
Ihekweazu , however, promised that the PTF and the agency would ensure that Nigerians had equitable access to the vaccines when available.
“Access is a very key issue when it comes to vaccines; that a vaccine is developed does not necessarily translate that it will be available to those that need it the most,’’ he said, adding that vaccine is the best weapon in taming the virus.
“Vaccine development normally takes 10-20 years, but we’ve made incredible development in the last six months.’’
Ihekweazu disclosed that there were about 226 vaccine candidates at different stages of development, saying so far, early data has shown that it worked well on volunteers.
He also said the NCDC was working together with other colleagues on the continent through the Africa Centre for Disease Control to start advocating some of the trials to be done on the continent with African institutions in the short term.
“To do this, we have to build capacity, gather sufficient data and include African institutions in these efforts. Secondly we have to start preparing Nigerian population for vaccine delivery when it becomes available”, he explained.
“So, through the ACT accelerator, WHO is working with GAVI to ensure that vaccines are available to countries regardless of their ability to pay. It is a work in progress and we are all working with Africa CDC and GAVI to ensure that when a vaccine becomes available, Nigeria’s can have access to it,’’ Ihekweazu assured.
Ihekweazu stressed the need to involve the private sector and academia in vaccination manufacturing while the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) would lead the distribution and planning.
The DG called for aggressive enlightenment of Nigerians on the benefits of the vaccine, pointing out that from experience a small part of the population usually resist vaccines for different reasons.
“So, the time to start the risk communication about the benefits of the vaccine is now. As soon as the vaccine becomes available, it is our responsibility collectively in preparing Nigerians for the implementation of the vaccination campaign for whatever form they take. It is important that we start thinking about this.”
Ihekweazu also disclosed that 11,000 contacts of COVID-19 patients were being traced.
The National Coordinator of PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu said Nigeria could not afford another lock down or losing more lives.
He appealed to churches and mosques and state governments to take the necessary precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in their areas.