Let me start by thanking you all for your steadfastness in promoting the health and well-being of Nigerians, particularly as it relates to the ongoing vaccination against COVID-19 and Government’s efforts to facilitate recovery from the adversities the disease has introduced to our lives. Similarly, I would like to appreciate our dedicated teams and the health care workers all across the country for their incredible work in the COVID-19 vaccination implementation. I am deeply convinced that your collective determination is based on sheer patriotism towards advancing the quality of health care in all parts of the country. We will continue to pray and work hard, and hope that sooner than expected, Nigeria and the world will be able to put COVID-19 behind and forge ahead with our new normal way of living.

The Federal Government has remained committed to ensuring that every eligible person in Nigeria is vaccinated against COVID-19. As of today, June 24th 2021, our data shows that 2,099,568 people have been vaccinated with their first doses while 1,005,234 have received their second doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. You would recall that the government reopened administration of first dose to address increase in vaccine demand by people who were yet to be vaccinated at all. This resulted in the increase in number of clients vaccinated with the first doses.

Let me further clarify that full vaccination DOES NOT exempt people who have received their second doses of the vaccine from observing the infection prevention and control measures. It is very important for everyone, including those who have received their second doses to continue to wear face masks and observe other non-pharmaceutical measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

We understand the constraints of time arising from our various economic and social engagements and because of that, we decided to extend the administration of second dose of the vaccine until 5th of July 2021. You would recall that the initial closing date for second dose administration was 25th of June, 2021. Even though we have extended the timeline for the second dose administration until 5th of July 2021, however those who have received their first dose no later than May 13th are advised to visit the nearest vaccination site to receive their second dose as soon as possible, for full protection against COVID-19.

Furthermore, we continue to receive requests from Nigerans who have taken the first dose of the vaccine outside the Country but want to take the second dose back home. They should walk into the nearest designated health facility to receive the jab. Health workers are hereby requested not to turn them back.

Our decision to reopen administration of first dose is indeed a great opportunity for those who are yet to be vaccinated. Please let us take advantage of this opportunity to get ourselves, our families and communities protected by going to get your jabs and kindly encourage others who are 18 years and above to do so as well. This set of people should be rest assured that by the time they are due for their second doses, we would have received another consignment of the vaccines.

We have experienced great frustration regarding the global vaccine supply. Not only have there been huge challenges with respect to vaccine manufacturers producing enough vaccines for the world, but there also has been great inequity in terms of distribution. Most countries of the world have received few, and in some cases no, vaccines. This is a problem that needs to be solved urgently and we are communicating this very clearly to our international partners on behalf of Nigerians. Recently, we are encouraged by the swell of contributions and pledges from major nations into COVAX. Rich nations of the world are showing greatly increased recognition that there must be more supply produced and it must be distributed much more fairly, and they are becoming active in solving this. Just a few days ago, the U.S. White House reconfirmed it will send an initial 80 million doses internationally by the end of this month, with additional shipments continuing to ramp up thereafter. These supplies and other large donations of vaccines to COVAX that are now planned will enable COVAX to supply new consignments to Nigeria and other nations who need vaccines now.

As I mentioned the last time, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is working closely with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) response. An App known as MED-SAFETY App was launched; it is available for free on Play store for Android devices and Apple Store for IOS devices. With this App, any individual can report vaccine side effect for him or herself, or on behalf of another person, and will receive timely response. There are also other pharmacovigilance measures in place to monitor and respond to AEFI cases throughout the country. So far after more than three million vaccinations, 13,267 people have experienced mild side effects, while 4,708 have experienced moderate to severe side effects.

It is however important for me to repeat that Nigeria has not recorded any case of death directly linked to COVID-19 vaccination. Cases of mild, moderate and severe reactions that have been recorded are expected from normal vaccination, and people who experienced any of these have since recovered and are doing well. Therefore, we should not allow the fear of side effects to discourage us from taking the vaccine, as the long term benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risk of brief side effects.

In continuation of our sensitization efforts, I would like to inform you that the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC) under the able leadership of Barrister Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, will continue to engage with stakeholders and our communities through the Zonal Town Hall Meetings. Accordingly, the next meeting will be the North-West Zonal meeting to hold in Kano state. And from Kano, we will be continuing to other geopolitical zones of the country where we are yet to have the meetings. I am counting on your resilience to continue to be part of this historic effort.

It is worthy to mention that our commitment to discuss our vaccination efforts directly with the communities is hinged on the principles of transparency and inclusiveness in the interventions to protect the lives of Nigerians against COVID-19. Our experiences in North-Central and North-East have been highly encouraging and assuring of our collective will to overcome COVID-19 and put it behind us, the way we did to the Wild Polio Viruses (WPV). We therefore remain optimistic that through Town Hall Meetings and other awareness creation events, we will be able to safeguard our communities against COVID-19.

I wish to again reassure Nigerians that the Federal Government under the leadership of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari is highly concerned about the safety and health of its citizens and is committed to interrupt COVID-19 transmission through vaccination and non-pharmaceutical measures. We must therefore do our part to keep ourselves and our communities safe. Please stay safe!

Thank you most sincerely for your attention. God bless you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Dr. Faisal Shuaib