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Explainer: Who will get Covid-19 vaccines in Nigeria?

In a global search to end the Coronavirus pandemic, developing a safe and effective vaccine at prompt speed is only first step. Nigeria is among 12 countries in Africa that have indicated readiness, of the 92 qualified countries for the facility.

Pfizer Inc with partner BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc have released trial data showing their Covid-19 vaccines to be about 95 percent effective at preventing the illness, while AstraZeneca Plc week said its vaccine could be up to 90 percent effective.

Its first shipment of vaccines doses is expected to take place in February, with health workers, top government officials and vulnerable people to be given priority.

A Mass Covid-19 vaccination aims to achieve immunity to stopping the virus spread. While efforts of the Nigerian government to secure enough doses of vaccines are crucial, the success of a public immunization campaign will improve vaccination. This includes media partnership to create awareness, improving logistical task of ensuring that vaccines could actually be given to enough Nigerians at the right time, in the right place.

How much more is on the way?

About 100,000 free Covid-19 vaccines, the first batch received by Nigeria will be administered to Nigerians at no cost (free of charges) and in four phases.

Nigerian government says they expect to have enough vaccine to give 20 million people their first doses — meaning they’d have around 40 percent of Nigerians in 2021 and they expect to be able to vaccinate an additional 30 percent people in the year 2022.

Who can take the Covid-19 vaccine?

The priority is to begin vaccinating health workers at high risk of exposure, followed by older adults, before immunising the rest of the population.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), there are specific populations for whom vaccination is not recommended, either due to contraindications, lack of supply, or limited data. These populations currently include people with a history of severe allergies, most pregnant women, international travellers who are not part of a prioritised group, and children under 16.

So, the general guidelines are that the vaccination is only for people over the age of 18 years.

The second dose will have to be of the same vaccine that was administered as the first dose. Meaning vaccines are not interchangeable.

The vaccine should be given with “caution” to persons with a history of any bleeding or coagulation disorder — platelet disorder, clotting factor deficiency, or coagulopathy.

Vaccinators have to store both vaccines at +2°C to +8°C; protect them from light; and discard the vaccine if found to be frozen.

The vaccine cannot be administered to people who belong to any of the following three categories:

Persons with a history of an allergic reaction to a previous dose of a Covid-19 vaccine (this would mean those who have taken a dose in a country where vaccination has already started); People who show an immediate or delayed onset of an allergic reaction to vaccines or injectable therapies, pharmaceutical products, and food items.

However, due to insufficient data, WHO does not recommend the vaccination of pregnant women at this time. Since they have not been part of any clinical trial so far, women who are “pregnant or not sure of their pregnancy” and “lactating women” should not receive the vaccine at this time.

Vaccines can be given regardless of some health conditions

Persons with a past history of Covid-19 infection can be administered with vaccine.

Further studies are required for the impacts on immune-compromised persons. The interim recommendation is that immune-compromised persons who are part of a group recommended for vaccination may be vaccinated, though when possible, not before receiving information and counselling.

Persons living with HIV are at higher risk of severe Covid-19 disease. Limited safety data exists on HIV-infected persons with well controlled disease from the clinical trials. Known HIV-positive vaccine recipients should be informed, and when possible, counselled in relation to the available data.

Where will they be distributed?

After vaccines arrives in Nigeria, the government already made provision for storage facilities or warehouses. From there, vaccines will be deployed to state, health offices, regional health units, hospital as well as other identified locations where vaccinations will take place.

The breakdown is as follows: Kano, 3,557; Lagos, 3,131; Katsina, 2,361; Kaduna, 2,074; Bauchi, 1,900; Oyo, 1,848; Rivers, 1,766; Jigawa, 1,712; Niger, 1,558; Ogun, 1,473; Sokoto, 1,468; Benue, 1,423; Borno, 1,416; Anambra, 1,379; Kebbi, 1,361; Zamfara, 1,336; Rivers, 1,306; Imo, 1,267; Ondo, 1,228; Akwa Ibom, 1,161.

Others are: Adamawa, 1,129; Edo, 1,104; Plateau, 1,089; Enugu, 1,088; Osun, 1,032; Kogi, 1,030; Cross River, 1,023; Abia, 955; Gombe, 908; Yobe, 842; Ekiti, 830; Taraba, 830; Kwara, 815; Ebonyi, 747; Bayelsa, 589; FCT, 695; Nasarawa, 661.

“The vaccines would be administered around the last week of January or early February. States with higher percentage of confirmed cases would be given additional doses,” Bassey Okposen, programme manager, national emergency routine immunisation coordination centre, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

According to Okposen, frontline health workers would be prioritised, while other batches would be administered to the elderly and vulnerable persons with co-morbidities based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

“We have other sources of vaccine that are non-mRNA like the COVAX vaccine. The country and other stakeholders are working towards how they can get additional vaccines from the other countries like Russia and USA.”

“We want to assure all Nigerians that the vaccine is safe and effective. The vaccine will be introduced in four phases and this is due to the availability and quantity of the vaccine that will come in at any given time,” he said.

Will the shot hurt or make me sick?

Mild side effect may occur as in any other vaccination. However, they are signs that the vaccine is working to build your immunity.

This does not mean you have Covid-19. If they do not go away in a few days, see the doctor. However, the vaccine does not contain any harmful substance or micro-chip. All vaccines including Covid-19 vaccines are manufactured under strict compliance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. Also, before the vaccine is administered in Nigeria, NAFDAC will test and certify it safe for human use.

You can get vaccinated, if you have Covid-19 and have recovered

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had Covid-19 because you can be infected more than once. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from the infection, we do not know how long this protection will last. Hence, it is recommended that you get vaccinated because you can be infected.

Do I still need to wear facemask after vaccination?

The guidelines from Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), NPHCDA advise you continue to practise the preventive measure by wearing your face masks, frequently wash your hands with soap and running water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Observe physical distancing and avoid large gathering and unnecessary travels to stop community transmission of COVID- 19.

This is because getting the vaccine does not stop you from getting exposed to someone who has been infected, but the vaccination and development of immunity will stop the infection from progressing to disease – hence, you still need to practise the prevention measures.

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