By Sodeinde Temidayo David
As the third wave of the coronavirus heightens, the federal government of Nigeria on Monday flagged off at a brief ceremony in Abuja the administration of new vaccines, marking the start of the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
The phase 2 vaccination programme came after the United States donated 4.8 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to the country.
According to reports, only about one per cent of the over 200 million Nigerian population has been fully vaccinated so far.
The flag-off ceremony, held at the Federal Medical Centre in Abuja, was presided over by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee (PCS) on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha
The Minister of Health, Mr Osagie Ehanire; the Minister of State for Health, Mr Olorunnimbe Mamora; the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Mr Chikwe Ihekweazu; and the Medical Director of the Federal Medical Center (FMC), Mr Aliyu Ahmed, were present at the event.
The event had earlier been scheduled for August 10 but was postponed, according to the Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, who said the postponement was purely due to administrative reasons.
Apart from the over 4 million Moderna doses, the government has also taken delivery of 177,600 doses of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine.
The single-shot J&J vaccine was acquired through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), with support from the African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim), a pan-African multilateral trade finance institution created under the umbrella of the African Development Bank.
The J&J vaccines are expected to be deployed in hard-to-reach areas to eliminate the need for travel for a second dose. More vaccines are expected in the country soon, the government has assured.
According to Mr Ehanire, Nigeria has gotten nearly 40 million doses of the J&J vaccines through AVAT.
In the latest update about the rising cases, Nigeria on Sunday (August 15) recorded 541 cases, bringing the total to 182,503 since February 2020.
Giving a breakdown, Lagos accounted for 242 cases, followed by Akwa Ibom, 94; Enugu and Oyo, 48 while Anambra saw 34.
Others included Rivers which recorded 19; Ogun, 17; Ekiti, 15; FCT, nine; Kwara, seven; Abia, five; Delta, two; and Niger saw the lowest case with one.
According to the NCDC, as of Sunday, no additional COVID-19-related death was reported as it stood at 2,219.
Government Must Make Nigeria Attractive to Doctors—NMA
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has said that the main reason why many doctors flee from the country for greener pastures elsewhere is as a result of poor remuneration and welfare.
The National Publicity Secretary of the association, Mr Aniekeme Uwah, said this on Monday during the 2021 Correspondents’ Chapel Week, adding that the increasing human capital flight of doctors from the country will potentially affect the health sector.
Speaking in Uyo on the theme Post-COVID-19 Economy and the Challenges to Ethical Journalism Ahead of 2023 Elections, Mr Uwah said, “So many of our colleagues in Nigeria have moved for greener pasture abroad, and if this is not tackled, the health sector will be highly affected.”
He added that the only way to ensure that medical practitioners stay and practice in their country is to make them see their nation as a place of greener pasture which the government at all levels can actualize by addressing the issue of poor welfare and remuneration.
“The only solution is for government to make adequate budgetary provisions so that doctors and other health workers will be motivated and well remunerated,” Mr Uwar said.
On the other hand, the Chairman of the House Committee on Health Institutions, Mr Paschal Chigozie Obi, has said that little could be done to discourage doctors and health practitioners from fleeing the country.
Mr Obi, who said this on Monday during an oversight visit by the House committee to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, explained that, “We held several meetings with the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) and we hands-off when the matter went to court.
“We can’t do anything until the matter is withdrawn from the court because anything we do will be sub judice. So, we can’t interfere in the court process until it is settled. Right now, we are handicapped.”
As the strike action embarked upon by members of NARD lingers, Mr Obi appealed that committee, in collaboration with the executive arm, is doing its best to ensure a reasonable condition for medical professionals in the country.
Oyo Assures Residents of COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy, Safety
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Residents of Oyo State have been assured of the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, urging them to take the jab to keep the state safe from the virus.
Last week, the state government, through the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, collaborated with UNICEF to create awareness on the COVID-19 vaccine (COVAX) among residents in the state.
The UNICEF C4D Specialists, Akure Office, Mrs Aderonke Akinola-Akinwole, stated that there was the need to educate and clear all doubts about the efficacy and safety of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine by the people of the state especially those living at the grassroots.
According to her, media practitioners have a huge role to play in demystifying misconceptions and rumours about COVAX in the grassroots.
She dismissed rumours that the vaccine causes early death, sterility or that it is a scam, adding that residents should shun all unfounded assumptions about the vaccine.
The UNICEF representative further explained that the vaccine is safe, effective and free of charge, as it helps reduce the effects of COVID-19 if contracted at all after the complete vaccination.
Earlier, the Director of UNICEF Programs in the ministry, Mr Rotimi Babalola, in his welcome address stated that the meeting with media practitioners and information officers from all the 33 LGA’s is important at this time, due to the outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
He noted that the Delta variant of the pandemic is deadlier than the previous COVID-19 hence the need to raise awareness among citizens who may have let down their guards concerning the COVID-19 protocols.
Mr Babalola stressed that the vaccine is available at primary health care centres in the state at no cost to prevent the spread of the virus especially at the time that school’s resumption is in the offing.
Court Orders Resident Doctors to Suspend Strike
By Sodeinde Temidayo David
**As NARD Appeals Ruling
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria has ordered the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to suspend their strike action and go back to work immediately, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The order followed a suit filed by the federal government to challenge the legality of the industrial action, which commenced August 2.
Justice Bashar Alkali, while ruling on the matter on Friday, also asked all parties to return to the negotiating table.
Counsel to the federal government, Mr Tochukwu Maduka, alongside the Federal Ministry of Health, noted that resident doctors embarked on the strike action, without proper notice as provided by the extant strike laws.
According to Mr Maduka, resident doctors are persons who provide essential services and cannot embark on strike as continuing to do so will pile hardship on citizens.
He also prayed the court to compel the members of NARD nationwide to return to their duty posts, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Opposing this, the counsel to the resident doctors, Mr Femi Aborishade, urged the court to discountenance their application, arguing that the life of a medical doctor was not less useful than the life of an average human being.
He further pointed out that justice must be balanced, not just to the government, but also to the doctors who are the field marshals in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier, both parties had told the vacation judge, Mr Alkali, at the industrial court on September 15 that they were set to negotiate and give the court an update by Friday.
But the process of negotiation and possible settlement failed.
Speaking shortly after the court ruling, however, the counsel to the doctors said he would advise them accordingly and show them other options of appeal, but they would not disobey court orders.
Meanwhile, the latest reports indicated that the doctors have filed an appeal to upturn today’s ruling, emphasising that they were not given a fair hearing. The association directed its members to continue with the industrial action.
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