Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of House of Representatives of Nigeria, has cautioned against playing politics with the coronavirus vaccines, as Nigeria commences vaccination.
Gbajabiamila gave the warning on Friday in Abuja at the National Flag-off Ceremony for COVID-19 Vaccination.
It was reported that Boss Mustapha, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, flagged off the exercise on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari.
This comes just three days after Nigeria got the first batch of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines from COVAX, a World Health Organisation (WHO) backed programme aimed at procuring and distributing free vaccines to countries around the world.
The first shipment of vaccines, totaling 3,924,000 doses, arrived at Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Tuesday afternoon via an Emirates flight from India.
The Federal Government had stated ahead of time that the vaccines would be distributed in order of priority, with frontline health workers at the top of the list.
It also stated that the elderly and strategic leaders in the country, including the President and other main public office holders, would be taken into account.
Gbajabiamila said: “This is the time for Nigerians to rally round the government.
“The vaccines being introduced in the country are safe and effective.”
Also, Mustapha said that the ceremony was just the beginning of a well detailed vaccination plan that would reach every eligible Nigerian at the appropriate time over year 2021 and 2022.
According to him, this span that the PTF hopes to have covered over 70 per cent of Nigerians and achieve herd immunity.
“The vaccines will be arriving in batches and I urge all Nigerians to be patient with relevant agencies of the Federal Government and Sub-national entities managing the deployment process.
“This is a novel roll out, just like the virus.
“Let me state categorically that vaccines are very sensitive life-saving commodity and the only authorised source is the Federal Government that has signed indemnity with the manufacturer,” he explained.
The PTF chairman appealed to Nigerians not to patronise fraudsters who were out to defraud, get rich and in the end, endanger their lives.
“We must be vigilant,” he advised.
In his speech, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, “For us in the health sector, it is the start of a tedious but hopeful exercise.
“The vaccination campaign we kick off today will be in four phases, and will align with the planned arrival of vaccines in batches.
“Each phase targets a specific segment of our eligible population, to ensure equity in vaccine deployment.”
“Defined frontline health workers are prioritised globally for vaccination against COVID-19, due to their exposure to the risk infection with COVID-19 virus in the course of duty,” Ehanire said.
Dr Walter Kazadi, Country Representative, WHO, said that the pandemic still had a long way to run.
“Intense transmission is ongoing and is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers.
“We need to work together to ensure that all preventive measures put in place are maximised to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our lives,’’ he said.
According to Kazadi, vaccines will be a critical new tool in the battle against COVID-19.
“These vaccines are safe and effective.
“Vaccines will be the game changer but for the foreseeable future, we must continue wearing masks, physically distance and avoid crowds.”
He noted that being vaccinated didn’t mean people were out of the risk of infection from COVID-19, particularly because it was still not clear how long the vaccines could protect not only against disease but also against infection and transmission.
He noted that the WHO would continue to support the Government of Nigeria in reaching its targeted population with safe and effective vaccine.
Earlier, Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said it was a momentous occasion as the country administered the first dose to a frontline medical doctor in the fight against COVID-19.
It was reported that three doctors and one nurse have received the COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.
Dr Cyprian Ngong became the first recipient of the AstraZeneca vaccine when he received the jab during an inaugural ceremony at the National Hospital, Abuja.
Two other doctors, Nuru Joseph and Thairu Yunusa, as well as a nurse, Faith E. Eragbai, also received jabs during the ceremony.