BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
The Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), which is the advocacy body of the private healthcare sector stakeholders, has called for the participation of private hospitals in the COVID-19 vaccination exercise in the country.
The resolution was part of conclusions reached at the end of an emergency stakeholders meeting on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to discuss issues around the low uptake of the vaccine amongst healthcare workers, as well as to continue the advocacy for the involvement of the private sector in the vaccine rollout.
The HFN said it has commenced engagement with National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to allow private sector healthcare organizations support the government’s efforts to accelerate vaccine uptake.
The arged that in several of the developed countries such as the United States, in Europe, and in South Africa, the private sector has been harnessed to help decentralize and accelerate vaccinations amongst the populace.
The interactive session which was declared opened by the HFN President, Dr Pamela Ajayi, and anchored by the Vice President, Ms Njide Ndili, hosted experienced COVID-19 healthcare professionals from the diaspora, and leaders of healthcare associations in Nigeria including Healthcare Providers Association of Nigeria (HCPAN).
Speaking during the event, Prof Igho Ofotokun from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia who is involved in the clinical trials of the vaccine assured that the vaccines are safe
He stated that: “The clinical trials proved to be 100% effective on African American patients and therefore Nigerian healthcare workers should be confident that taking the vaccine will protect them from the COVID-19 virus.
“the extent of longterm effects of the COVID-19 virus on the human body are still being studied so the benefits of taking the vaccines far outweigh the negatives.”
Nigeria received 3.92 million doses of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccines through COVAX, a global scheme formed to ensure fair access to inoculations for low and middle-income states. As of April 6, 2021 approximately 965,000 people have been vaccinated representing 48.0% of the targeted population to be vaccinated in this first phase.
Particpants at the meeting attributed the shortfall to a high level of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers due to the suspension in several countries as a result of reported blood clots, infertility and other conspiracy theories circulating in social media.
Chairman of Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Mr. Asue Ighodalu while contributing to the discussion reiterated the importance of private sector involvement to increase uptake so that the economy can open up and drive economic activities.
He said “Government needs to explore other vaccine options and licenses granted to some private sector organisations to procure vaccines to complement those supplied by the Government. This will allow the Government to focus more on regulation and ensuring safety of the vaccination program. Private sector should be allowed to participate in the vaccine administration process using a similar template to that used for the COVID-19 testing in Lagos State, where private sector players are permitted to charge controlled pricing.”
Mr. Adeyemi Adewole, HFN Financial Secretary who moderated the discussions suggested that out of pocket payment for the COVID-19 vaccine should be encouraged for those who can afford it as is being done in various countries such as in Dubai and India.
He said, “There is clearly pent-up demand for the vaccine as there are reported cases of people offering money to be vaccinated and many large Corporates anxious to pay for vaccines to protect their staff.”