The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), has said that the COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool to contain the global coronavirus pandemic.
The Minister, Prof. Osagie Ehanire, said this on Tuesday in Abuja, at the Launch of optimized S.C.AL.E.S strategy for COVID-19 Mass Vaccination in Nigeria, the Johnson&Johnson roll out and the vaccination site finder, organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in November 2021, the NPHCDA introduced the SCALES strategy to rapidly ramp up COVID-19 vaccine coverage by expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines outside the health facility.
Mass vaccination sites have been established at all public places such as markets, parks, shopping malls, schools, mosques, and churches.
SCALES is an acronym for service delivery, communication, accountability, logistics, electronic reporting, and supportive supervision for the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination.
Although the SCALES strategy has proven to be quite effective in ramping up COVID-19 vaccination coverage, the proportion of fully vaccinated Nigerians is still very low, partly because “we have been using two-dose vaccines”.
Ehanire noted that most Nigerians are reluctant to take their second dose for various reasons, including fear of a repeat of the mild side effects they may have experienced with the first dose.
“The federal government, through NPHCDA, continues to strive to make COVID-19 Vaccination more accessible to the people.
“There is a unique opportunity to leverage the SCALES strategy using COVID-19 vaccination structures and resources to improve Routine Immunization (RI) coverage, with improved efficiency and reduced duplication of efforts by health care workers.
“This is to ensure that while controlling the transmission of COVID-19, Nigeria does not become a fertile ground for the outbreak of childhood vaccine-preventable diseases by rapidly increasing RI uptake alongside COVID-19 uptake,” he said.
According to him, It has become imperative that we launch the SCALES 2.0 Strategy, which entails the integration of COVID-19 vaccination with childhood routine immunization for eligible adults 18 years and above and children zero to two years respectively, leveraging Mass Vaccination Campaigns, Routine Immunization Fixed sessions, Outreach services and Mobile services.
He said that the country also formally rolled out the Johnson and Johnson single dose vaccine while introducing the COVID-19 vaccination site finder.
“This means that all childhood vaccination, including administration of vitamin A, will now be done alongside COVID-19 vaccination at COVID-19 vaccination sites.
“Eligible children will now be able to receive their BCG, Penta 3, OPV 3, OPV 1&2, Measles, Yellow Fever vaccines, as well as Vitamin A supplement, at the sites where the adults receive COVID-19 vaccines” he said
The minister assured Nigerians that the country have adequate stock of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, as they have over 30 million doses in stock.
“I call on all eligible persons that are yet to receive their vaccination to go to the nearest COVID-19 vaccination site and get vaccinated.
“This single dose offers the same protection you get from two doses of AstraZeneca, Pfizer Bio-N-Tech and Moderna vaccines.
“Also, I encourage those who have received their first dose of AstraZeneca, Moderna, or Pfizer vaccines to ensure they take their second dose when due, to be fully vaccinated and protected,” he explained.
The minister said that the government would continue to strengthen the vaccine security and accountability through the NPHCDA Joint Task Force on Vaccine Monitoring and Accountability.
“We will continue to engage with all stakeholders, partners, and communities, to ensure inclusiveness and transparency in decision making and other processes involved in COVID-19 vaccination and overall health care delivery in Nigeria,” he stressed.
Earlier, The Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said this was a unique opportunity for the country to be together to launch the SCALES 2.0 strategy.
Shuaib noted to achieve herd immunity, the country has to vaccinate 70 per cent of its eligible population, and the strategy would help the country get there.
The NPHCDA boss stated that every Nigerian having access to one single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine would improve the vaccination uptake.
He added that launching the vaccination site finder was another way of getting vaccines closer to Nigerians.
NAN reports that, as of February, 18, Nigeria has administered over 20 million doses, representing over 18 per cent of the 111,176,503 eligible population targeted for COVID-19 vaccination.