- Good afternoon distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the press and thank you for honoring our invitation. This is our first meeting of the year 2022 on the progress of COVID-19 vaccination. I would therefore like to welcome you specially and say HAPPY NEW YEAR! I believe we all had a restful time and a joyful stay with our families and friends. I want to also believe that we took time to educate our friends and get eligible members of our families vaccinated against COVID-19.
- As you are aware, as the holiday season approached, we began to see an increase in the number of cases not just in Nigeria but also globally. In Nigeria, several unvaccinated individuals were migrating from the cities to the rural areas and back to the cities. Globally, we saw the emergence of new variants such as the IHU variant in France which is said to have 46 mutations, Deltacron in Cyprus, and the Omicron variant still being highly infectious with a BA.2 subvariant rapidly spreading. More of our citizens were coming down with the infection. Luckily for our vaccinated population, those who came down with the COVID-19 infection had mild symptoms which they managed at home due to the immunity the vaccination provided them. If they were not vaccinated, we cannot predict how these cases would have turned out. Vaccination prevents you from severe disease, hospitalization, and death.
- The reason for the emergence of these variants is because there is still a large proportion of the eligible population who have not yet been vaccinated and this has given the virus time to mutate and fight back. It is important that we protect ourselves and our loved ones by getting the jab. Our vaccination exercise was expanded to enable all eligible persons to have easier access. All vaccination sites are open to eligible persons, 18 years and above for first, second, and booster doses. We call on Nigerians to avail themselves of this opportunity in the ongoing mass vaccination exercise to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- We would also like to inform the general public that in this phase of COVID-19 mass vaccination we plan to integrate the campaign with childhood immunization and other PHC services. What this simply means is that alongside the COVID-19 vaccines, childhood vaccines will also be available at COVID-19 vaccination sites. Consequently, parents or guardians with children aged zero to 23 months are urged to take them along to the vaccination sites. The childhood vaccines protect against polio, whooping cough, measles, yellow fever, tetanus, tuberculosis, and other childhood preventable diseases. This is to ensure that while we are trying so hard to control the transmission of COVID-19, we do not neglect other PHC services or even have outbreaks of childhood vaccine-preventable diseases on our hands.
- We urge you to please tell your colleagues, friends, and loved ones to go to the vaccination sites or health centers nearest to them with their zero to 23 months old children for vaccination against COVID-19 and childhood vaccine-preventable diseases.
- We call on Nigerians to avail themselves of the opportunity in the ongoing mass vaccination exercise to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Let me pause here to appreciate your invaluable support once again in creating awareness and mobilizing Nigerians for COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Our record as of today, Tuesday, January 25th, 2022 shows that 14,093,873 eligible persons have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria while 5,252,406 eligible Nigerians have been fully vaccinated. However, as one would expect, these results are not evenly distributed across the states of the Federation. Our deep dive into state performances reveals that Nasarawa, Jigawa, FCT, Ogun, and Kwara have remained the top 5 performing states on COVID-19 vaccine uptake. It is noteworthy to mention that Jigawa and Lagos have each vaccinated about a 1.5million eligible Nigerians with the first dose, while FCT, Nasarawa, Lagos, and Delta are leading on second dose administration with more than 10% of eligible populations in each of the states already vaccinated. On the walls of this hall, you can see the States performance charts displayed. It is in our spirit of transparency and accountability that we consider it important to keep Nigerians informed about the progress of COVID-19 vaccination in the states. We also believe that this information will serve as an encouragement for the states in the vaccine uptake, going forward.
- I am sure the question plaguing your mind is what are the best performing States doing differently and what are our recommendations to States on how to ramp up Covid-19 and childhood vaccinations. The following are our Prayers to State Governors:
- Governor should convene a meeting of LGA Chairmen, traditional, political, religious leaders, and the health team. He should charge them with the responsibility of ensuring that the populace within their constituencies is duly vaccinated.
- The Governor should charge the LGA Chairmen and health teams to develop daily, weekly, and monthly Covid-19 and Childhood vaccination targets based on the total eligible populations
- The Governor can meet with the LGA Chairmen and health teams on a weekly basis, to review the results of the campaigns and confirm if these targets are being met. This can also be an agenda on the weekly State Executive Council meetings.
- The Governor can apply accountability mechanisms to the vaccination process by publically rewarding LGA teams that perform the highest and sanctions teams that do not meet the minimum requirements despite the support. This can be done in a fortnightly ceremony where the Governor shakes the best performers and issue certificates or plaques of excellence.
- We understand the challenges of undue vaccine hesitancy in the country, we strongly believe that a more committed approach to implementing mass vaccination will lead to improved vaccine uptake. This is why our current vaccination phase emphasizes state supervision support to ramp up vaccine uptake especially in low-performing states.
- We want to acknowledge the strong leadership displayed by many Governors in ensuring that their citizens are vaccinated and encourage them to do even more, so we can further improve our vaccination coverage. Last year, the daily Covid-19 vaccination coverage was about 100,000 people per day. Between December 2021 and January 2022, we have more than doubled this vaccination rate to over 200,000 per day. With the talents and capabilities of Nigerians, I know we can do better and we must improve to protect all Nigerians.
- It is pertinent to reiterate the fact that to date, Nigeria has not recorded any death arising from COVID-19 vaccination. This should further serve to convince everyone that COVID-19 vaccines are safe. Let me, therefore, remind all Nigerians, that the second and booster doses are critical to achieving high protection against the virus especially as it keeps mutating.
- As you are aware, Nigeria introduced a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on the 10th of December 2021, following the recommendation by WHO for people who have received two doses of AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer Bio-N-Tech, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccines. In line with his exemplary leadership style, President Muhammadu Buhari received his booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday the 21st of December 2021. So far, 416,980 Nigerians have received their booster dose. Again, this is a clear indication that many more Nigerians are determined to achieve maximum protection against COVID-19.
- Let me remind Nigerians that our Joint Task Force on COVID-19 vaccine monitoring and accountability is still very active and vigilant. The Federal Government is on alert for any report of card vending and other unlawful activities on COVID-19 vaccination. Therefore, we urge everyone to remain law-abiding and compliant with recommended safety measures on COVID-19.
- It is our hope that the year 2022 represents the exit and recovery of Nigeria and the rest of the world from COVID-19. Thank you and God bless!
Dr. Faisal Shuaib