Opinion

COVID-19: Appreciating NPHCDA’s Leadership Intervention – By Bukola Olasanmi

Notwithstanding heightened division in opinion, orchestrated negative propaganda and the deepening conspiracy theory against COVID19 Vaccine, Nigeria took delivery of 3.92 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, 2 March 2021.The delivery marked the first arrival of COVID-19 vaccine in the country and make Nigeria the next West African country to benefit from the COVAX Facility after Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

The arrival of the vaccine enabled the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to commence the vaccination of Nigerians in priority groups, starting with frontline healthcare workers.
According to Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director/ CEO, NPHCDA. “The arrival of this vaccine is the result of the commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the leadership of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, the support of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the guidance of the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire,”

“We are fully prepared to receive and deliver the vaccine to eligible Nigerians as we have commenced the training of health workers and ensured that cold chain facilities are ready at all levels. We have a robust cold chain system that can store all types of COVID-19 vaccine in accordance with the required temperature. We are therefore confident that we will have a very effective roll-out of the vaccine, starting with our critical healthcare workers, who are in the frontline in providing the care we all need,” Dr Shuaib added.

The delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine is part of an overall 16 million doses planned to be delivered to Nigeria in batches over the next months by the COVAX Facility, as part of an unprecedented global effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The COVAX Facility is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), with UNICEF as a key implementing partner.
“The COVAX Facility, has worked exceptionally hard to ensure that Nigeria gets the vaccine as soon as possible so it can start its vaccination programme to the largest population in Africa,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative.

“Vaccines are a critical additional tool in the battle against COVID-19 – until the country achieves high coverage of the vaccination, Nigerians must continue to adhere to the public health and social measures outlined by government to suppress transmission of the virus,” said Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Representative in Nigeria.
However, there is renewed vigor in the rumour industry by jobless detractors and saboteurs working against the administration of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in the country.

The government of president Mohammadu Buhari is hell bent on curbing the spread of the global Coronavirus pandemic; but those who perpetually pray for misfortunes to strike the country had already perfected plans to frustrate the inoculation process. Different creative tales were churned out to incite public rejection of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

There were those contracted to campaign against the vaccine as a killer stuff released to Africa by Western countries to cause mass deaths in the plot to reduce the over bloated population of African continent. Social media activists also aligned it to disease-causing or inducement drug which would permanently keep those who succumbed to its vaccination hospitalized to death.

Others linked the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to some indiscernible prohibitive cultural practices or abominations. In spite of the gang-up to falsely chorus the failure of the Buhari Presidency on public health care delivery, the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine is steadily on course in Nigeria.

The likely set back to the seamless administration of Covid-19 vaccine in Nigeria now is the manufacturing and circulation of fake Coronavirus vaccines by the evildoers. Those who accepted Covid-19 vaccines from the black market have mortgaged their lives to the unconscionable actions of some fraudulent Nigerians.

Recently, Nigeria’s National Agency for Food Drug and Administration Control (NAFDAC) had to issue a public caution about the disturbing presence of fake Covid-19 vaccines in circulation. NAFDAC was blunt that it has not approved any local Covid-19 vaccine as bandied in public and the varieties of fake Covid-19 vaccines in circulation are responsible for the “Covid-like illnesses or other serious diseases that could kill” in people who have used it.
That’s why it is advisable to take Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines only in Government designated medical facilities or institutions.

Therefore, the skeptics, cynics and twisters of the reality are eventually finding themselves standing against naked truth with the fleshless propaganda. If there is a conspiracy to kill Africans through the Covid-19 vaccine, it implies that Nigeria is not the only country to fall into the trap in Africa and world over.

African countries like Ghana, Core d’Ivoire and other nations on the continent are massively vaccinating their citizens with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines. WHO alongside with other international health bodies have approved scores of Covid-19 vaccines certified as safe and healthy for global use. But Oxford AstraZeneca which is in use in Nigeria is rated as one of the best from the fleet principally because it has the potency to also boost human immune system.
The British Prime Minister has also been inoculated with the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. In Nigeria, President Buhari; the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and other top Government functionaries have all been inoculated with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in turns.

Had the Buhari Presidency failed to acquire the Covid-19 vaccines, there would have been a lot of blackmailing campaigns on his person and Government by the egoistic opposition or some disgruntled elements. Now that the vaccines have been acquired, the campaigns have tilted to dissuading Nigerians from taking the inoculations, basing the arguments on unfounded conspiracy theories.

President Buhari has found reliable allies in the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. They are wonderful Nigerians who are spending sleepless nights in deflating the malicious campaigns against the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine and, simultaneously working round the clock in ensuring effective distribution and inoculation of Nigerians against Covid-19 disease. Every member of the team has performed excellently and deserves national recognition and honours for the utmost commitment and hard work.

I want to particularly salute Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director/ CEO, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). He is to me an exceptional character on the team of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. He is a complete craftsman who knows how to execute the briefs of his office faultlessly in times of national public health emergency.

Dr. Shuaib is one individual who has been able to justify the mandate of his office especially in this tough time. Firstly, the choice of AstraZeneca vaccine, with zero medical complications, aside boosting body immunity and protecting the body against other diseases. Dr. shaibu has neutralised the potency of the baseless conspiracy theories concocted against the vaccine from certain quarters.

It is a thing of exceeding joy that for the several weeks Nigerians are being inoculated with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, no single incident of post-inoculation health complications to date. It is the worthiest proof of its efficacy and health guarantee. No wonder more volunteers are coming out to mobilize Nigerians for the vaccination.

The NPHCDA boss’s ingenuity is gleaned in the brilliant strategies he adopted to distribute the vaccines and the initial administration of the AstraZeneca on certain categories of Nigerians across the country. Dr. Faisal Shuaib, streamlined the first categories of Nigerians to be immunized to include, strategic leaders, military and paramilitary workers and health personnel whose jobs expose them to frequent contacts with multitudes every day.

The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), the apex medical body in the country has also attested to the validity, safety and potency of the Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccines as its members are massively inoculating themselves against the pandemic. The good news is that some branches of the NMA are now at the forefront, leading public awareness campaigns to dispel the misgivings and urging Nigerians to come out en masses for vaccination.

And most pleasurably, the seamless distribution of the vaccine across the country by the NPHCDA in record time is an apt indication that things can rightly be done in the right manner in Nigeria under the right leadership. Dr. Shuaib has symbolized or perfectly demonstrated and expressed this leadership.

Dr. Faisal Shuaib, unlike other heads of government agencies, is evidently a very brilliant physician who has deployed humility, maturity, clarity of purpose and understanding of the pandemic to convert some naysayers who never gave the NPHCDA a chance to do its job. Today, some of these earlier anti-vaccine activists are singing praises of the NPHCDA. With good leadership, nothing is impossible. Truly, Leadership is what Nigeria need and that is all Nigerians cry for on a daily basis. The Nigerian government plans to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of eligible Nigerians aged 18 years and above in four phases within two years.

Olasanmi wrote this piece from Abuja.

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