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Nigeria Struggling For 2% Vaccination, Encouraging Home-Grown Vaccines, Says Minister Lai

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed

August 11, (THEWILL) – The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says the insinuation that Nigeria is going cap in hand seeking donations for COVID-19 vaccines is incorrect.

He also said the country was “still struggling with 2 percent vaccination.”

The Minister made the clarifications during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday.

According to him, Nigeria is expecting a large number in batches of doses of COVID-19 vaccine brands in a few weeks, which are being paid for.

The Minister said some of the vaccines were procured through the African Union (AU), which had signed a COVID-19 vaccine procurement agreement for 400 million doses for member-states funded with loans from AFREXIMBANK.

He said: “It is not correct that we are going cap in hand relying on donations, vaccines are not like bread that you can go to a shop and buy. There is what is called vaccine rationalisation. Even those countries that have the vaccines are not ready to sell.

“That is why we have to go through the AU to negotiate globally for the 400 million for the whole of Africa.

“We are not just expecting a large number of doses of the vaccines which the government is paying for, but working toward the development of our home-grown vaccines.”

Mohammed recalled that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in June approved N83.56 billion to purchase 30 million doses of the vaccines.

He said there was a lot of cooperation between the Federal Government and various research institutes for the development of locally made vaccines.

He added: “Don’t forget that Nigeria is the first country in Africa that did the sequencing of this virus a long time ago. We will be very proud to have our own home-made vaccines and that is why we are giving support to all our various research institutes to have a breakthrough on this.

“We have been told that this may not be the last virus or epidemic we are going to have, therefore, working toward vaccines must be a continuous one.

“The Federal Government is doing everything possible to support and encourage our scientists. Hopefully, in a few years, we will be able to develop our home made vaccines which will be administered globally.”

The Minister admonished people with negative view points, stressing that receiving donations while waiting to take delivery of its own should not be a basis for vilification.

On recent strict travel protocols by the Federal Government, Mohammed said the policy is meant to protect citizens from being infected by COVID-19 pandemic.

He explained: “We have been accused that our rules are being stringent. We say no. We are not being tough for toughness’ sake. We are being tough because that is what science demands. We are tough because we want to protect our people.

“This is why you will see that the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) has designated and ranked different parts of the globe where the Delta variant is prevalent or the very high risk of contracting COVID-19.

“We have labelled them restricted countries. As of today, we have only four of such; South Africa, India, Brazil, and Turkey. And there are strict travel protocols around these countries because we want to prevent and protect our people.

“The first instance, nationals of these countries are not allowed into Nigeria. If you are a Brazilian and you are coming from Brazil and Indian coming from India, a South African coming from South Africa or Turkish coming from Turkey.

“It doesn’t mean a Brazilian living in London cannot come, you can come if you are coming from London. And also, not everybody coming from these countries are banned, we make exemptions; diplomats are exempted, high level government officials, those coming to fix our infrastructure and economy are exempted by PSC.

“But no matter what category, whether Nigerian coming from Turkey or you are exempted for whatever you are coming to do in Nigeria, but you must observe the travel protocols which means you check in straight into a quarantined facility approved by the Federal Government.

“And when you are there, your health is monitored constantly, day two of your arrival, you will do a COVID-19 test, do another one day seven, it is only after you are tested negative on day seven that you are allowed to go home and meet your relations.

“However those who are coming from non-restricted countries, also have their own protocols to observe, one, they must self-isolate in their respective homes, and two, day seven, they must come out and do a test before they are being discharged.”

The Minister said regrettably, many people who came in from non-restricted countries did not observe self-isolation, and even when they did they thought it was an occasion to invite friends and relations.

He further pointed out: “It is a dangerous practice. Those doing that are endangering their lives, the lives of their friends and relations. If you have taken the two doses of your AstraZeneca or new Moderna, they will not prevent you from catching COVID-19 again, the only advantage you have, if you catch it after you took the vaccine, you won’t be terribly sick, you may not even notice it, you won’t be hospitalised and you will not die of COVID-19.

“If someone comes in from a country like India for instance even if he is vaccinated and he meets a Nigerian who has been vaccinated, that Nigerian can still catch it because you need to have vaccinated at least 70 per cent of your population.

“It is when you have vaccinated 70 percent of your population before you can achieve what they call herd immunity. Here we are still struggling with 2 percent vaccination.

“So that is why we put what looks like tough travel protocols around most restricted and non-restricted countries.”

Mohammed, however, noted that this list was not final and any country Nigeria noticed that COVID-19 or delta variant was becoming endemic such a country would be added to the list because it was all about safety of lives of the citizens.