FG mulls COVID-19 vaccination as condition for overseas travels

 The Federal Government on Saturday hinted that getting COVID-19 vaccination could become a requirement for all international passengers as the fight against the killer infection gathers steam.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said some countries have already started introducing restrictions for receiving visitors.

He spoke in Abuja at an event where President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo received their first doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Buhari himself charged all eligible Nigerians to receive the vaccine.

The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, debunked media reports that the Federal Government had earmarked N10.6 billion for the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines across the country.

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said that soon, no one would be able to travel without being vaccinated.

“I think vaccine hesitancy would have to give way to the reality,” he said.

He added: “Because the truth about it, Your Excellency, is that very soon, nobody will be able to travel the world unless you produce the certificate that we have been given.

“I have not confirmed but reliably, some countries have started putting restrictions on receiving visitors, even exercising activities of their faith without a COVID-19 vaccination.

“So the word that is going out there, on behalf of Mr. President, is that Nigerians should make themselves available, those that are eligible in the first set of the deployment, because the deployment is going to be in four phases, to receive these vaccines.

“They have been tested. Our most strategic leadership has received them this morning. They are safe, efficacious and it is for the good and well being of our people.”

Buhari described his decision to take the vaccine in public as “a demonstration of leadership and faith in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.”

“I have received my first jab and I wish to commend it to all eligible Nigerians to do same so that we can be protected from the virus,” he said.

He urged all state governments, traditional and religious leaders, to take the lead in the mobilization effort within their environment and spheres of influence.

He said: “The vaccine offers hope for a safe country, free of Coronavirus.

“I similarly urge all eligible Nigerians to present themselves and be vaccinated in accordance with the order of priority already mapped out, at the various authorised designated centres only.”

He congratulated the PTF on COVID-19 on the successful multi-sectoral approach to the management of the pandemic, and also commended state governments, donors, development partners, the private sector, traditional and religious leaders as well as critical stakeholders who have supported Nigeria’s response to the pandemic.

He pledged that all the resources will be equitably administered.

The President noted that since the beginning of the year 2020, humanity had remained under the burden of COVID-19 pandemic, an unseen but very potent enemy around the world.

“Infection from the virus has resulted in over two million and five hundred thousand fatalities and destroyed several global and national systems.

“The response in Nigeria and the ECOWAS sub-region has been robust, collaborative and united. It was driven by a collective knowledge of the fact that ‘no country is safe until every country is safe.

“The speedy development of the COVID-19 vaccines is quite significant and underscores the collective resolve of humanity to overcome the pandemic.

“Similarly, the collaborative effort to ensure equal access has brought relief to poor and developing countries,” he said.

President Buhari spoke of the assurance by the PTF that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which Nigeria has accessed, would arrive in batches beginning with the four million doses already received.

The President said the roll out and administration plan would cater for over 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population in 2021 and 2022.

Also speaking, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said the show of leadership by the President and the Vice President would boost the morale of the health sector and reassure the public about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

He said five main pillars have been laid out for this COVID-19.

“First is to continue to scale up that dynastic and case finding, infection prevention and control to reduce infections that arise in our country.

“Secondly, to continue to improve the therapeutics and the case management, they have graciously agreed to ensure oxygen plants, at least 88 of them in the country, because we have discovered that high flow oxygen supplementation is key to the treatment of COVID-19 severe cases.

“We have also made the point to continue to sustain, essentially the routine medical services. So we do not lose sight of this area and begin to see more fatalities coming even from non-COVID cases, due to fear of COVID or too much focus on COVID. We tend to continue to press on our routine medical services.

“The fourth is the introduction of the emergency medical service an ambulance system in your country, which we believe will reduce maternal mortality under-five mortality, accident mortality and all the mortality we see in on expected events and that the country’s health system will be able to respond promptly to citizens, when they are in distress, they know who to call upon.

“The fifth and the final is the introduction of COVID vaccines. It has taken about a year of record scientific work to come about these vaccines in many countries.

“This vaccine is safe and has been administered to millions of persons and it is also well sought after. Just a day or two ago, we had reports of a diplomatic squabble between Italy and Australia over AstraZeneca vaccines and where they should go too fast.

“There is still vaccine nationalism. There is still hoarding going on. And we do hope that with your support, Your Excellency, we are continuing to get the flow of vaccines to continue that decentralisation process,” he said.

The exercise was preceded by e-registration of both the President and Vice President, and filling out of their vaccination cards by the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib.

The President and his deputy received the first shots of the vaccine at the New Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja in the presence of members of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, senior government officials and journalists.

The Personal Physician to the President, Dr Sanusi Raafindadi, administered the vaccine on him, while that of the Vice President was also done by his personal physician, Dr Nicholas Audifferen.

The President and the Vice President got their jabs a day after the COVID-19 national vaccine programme commenced with the vaccination of healthcare and frontline workers at the National Hospital, Abuja.

The event was witnessed by Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed; Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu and the Director General of National Agency for Food Drugs and Administration Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye.

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