As at the last count, 1,244 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Nigeria with the epicentre, Lagos State, recording 774, while the Federal Capital Territory trails behind with 125. According to the NCDC, the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the first week of January 2021 was higher than cases recorded in the last week of December, 2020.
These are frightening statistics. Coupled with the spike and the spate of time these cases were recorded, there is serious cause for concern. The good news, however, is that the federal government had promised to make an order for vaccines – 160 million doses in all, which account for 70 per cent of the nation’s population.
The government wants to vaccinate 40 per cent of the country’s population by the end of this year and the remaining 30 next year. The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had also said the first 100,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine would arrive before the close of January.
Good tidings, one is wont to say. We commend the federal government for this move, which is one of the firsts in the African continent. However, as Nigerians await the vaccine with bated breath, it is our view that some questions are salient and pertinent.
It is sad that while other countries, including India and South Africa, had embarked on tests of the vaccine they planned to order, suggestions for this to happen in Nigeria were turned into a huge debate capped with blame game among concerned agencies. While the debate was yet to subside, the federal government announced its bias for the Pfizer vaccine even as experts warned that the cost and storage of the vaccine pose a challenge.
While it had been announced that the first consignment that would arrive by the end of the month would have President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as the first recipients, the government is yet to tell how the vaccine would be administered, who and who would be included in the first 100,000 doses and who and who would not.
As a newspaper, we advise strongly that the first doses to arrive should not be hijacked by political office holders and their kith and kin. Rather, the administering should toe the line of other countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and others. Hence, it is our view that frontline health workers and the elderly are given priority in space.
For now, political office holders should endeavour to be what they should be – public servants. They should place the interest of the country, frontline health workers and the most vulnerable above their own.
We also call on the PTF and affected agencies not to sweep the testing of the ordered Pfizer vaccine for its appropriateness and effectiveness or otherwise to Nigerians under the rug. This is more so as a variant of the COVID-19 has emerged in the country. Should Nigerians be worried about the new variant which has emerged in the country? We think there is a reason to be as it may not be receptive to the international vaccine.
Another challenge which would definitely give the authorities a nightmare and probably threaten the successful administration of this vaccine is demography. As it had already been decided that only 70 per cent of Nigerians would be given the vaccine in the next two years, the question is how many of these doses will be given to each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, including the 774 local government areas recognised by the 1999 constitution as amended?
Most importantly, as the nation awaits the first 100,000 doses of the vaccine to arrive before the month runs out, and the marauding pandemic keeps attacking Nigerians with devastating effects, we call on authorities to shore up their efforts at providing infallible health services to patients and stem the tide of deaths by flattening the curve.
It is disheartening that some state governors still find it novel to play politics with this shattering pandemic. We call on the governors to shun cheap politics and be more sincere about the wellbeing of their citizens by doing whatever is needed according to the peculiarity and idiosyncrasy of their state.
This paper also enjoins officials to eschew corruption, bring to the fore their human side of officialdom and discharge their duties particularly in respect of the war against COVID-19 without fear or favour, gratification and pecuniary gains. The mind boggling corruption that trailed the distribution and administering of HIV/AIDS antiretroviral drugs at the initial stage still gores the heart. Such should not be allowed to happen again.