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Published On: Thu, Dec 17th, 2020

Covid-19 vaccines won’t be available before January -Minister

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By Egena Sunday Ode

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has warned Nigerians to beware of the second wave of the ravaging Covid–19 pandemic, even as he disclosed that the vaccines may not be available in the country before January next year.
Ehanire disclosed this while fielding questions from newsmen at a press briefing on the outcome of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting held virtually was presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as President Muhammadu Buhari participated from his Daura country home where he’s on a week visit.
According to the Minister, Nigeria is being careful to ensure that the best variety of the vaccines are supplied to the country in terms of cost and effectiveness.
He said: “A technical working group is working on the question on vaccine. We have signed up with the World Health Organisation and Gavi for access to vaccines immediately they are available. But you know that these vaccines are new and are in packets and the producers are not given any indemnity.
“These countries where these vaccines are manufactured, have of course, given themselves the priority to serve themselves, serve their own citizens first and we hope that the pressure from the World Health Organisation and Gavi will be able to get reserves for other countries that are not manufacturing and they will be able to attend to what we signed up to.
“We signed up for advanced market participation in Cobax. So, if we will be able to get our own, I think it will be in January. But there are two types of vaccines. There are those that have to be in ultra deep freezers – the MRA type of vaccines. That is the freezer that must give you Minus 80 percent type of degree.
“There is another type that has to be in the deep freezer of Minus 20 degree which is a deep freezer and there is another type that can be in minus two degree refrigerators. This is the regular refrigerator. The one that will be in regulator refrigerators is easy. We have them here. The one that will be in Minus 20 refrigerators is also going to be possible because we also have the freezers here but the one that will be in ultra cold freezers, we hardly have ultra cold freezers in this country and to receive and store in those ultra cold freezers will require that you purchase the ultra cold freezers.
“So, we are working on the cost. Which one shall we get first? Obviously the one we can afford. Remember that we have 200 million citizens. We need to have a way to be able to get enough to be able to take care of our citizens. So, that means we must be able to get the vaccines that work well, with good cost of storage and cost of delivery. That is the one we will like to get as soon as they are available.
We also had bilateral discussions with manufacturers. Some of them have written to us that they want to have discussions with us. One of them, as I speak to you, is already having a discussion with the Ministry of Health and the one that British and Russia team are putting together. We are working with them because if we cannot get enough from one source, we should be able to get from other sources. So, we are looking at multiple sources.
“We had a conversation with United Arab Emirates. The ambassador came to see us and told us that they are buying vaccines from China and had tested them. So, they said they are introducing them to us. So, we said we would listen to them because the one that is effective and healthy in those countries and is available is the one we shall bring and that has also proven to be safe.”

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