Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has said that efforts are ongoing to acquire approved COVID-19 vaccines in January 2021. He disclosed this to journalists Wednesday, December 16, 2020; after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja.
This is coming almost a week after Nigerians were advised to prepare for a possible second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ehanire added that Nigeria signed up with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Gavi for easy access to vaccines as they are made available. He, however, noted that Nigeria might have to deal with a huge challenge if we go for the Covid-19 vaccines that require ultra-cold freezers for storage.
“The one that will be in regulator refrigerators is easy. We have them here. The one that will be in Minus 20 refrigerators is also going to be possible because we also have the freezers here but the one that will be in ultra-cold freezers, we hardly have ultra-cold freezers in this country and to receive and store in those ultra-cold freezers will require that you purchase the ultra-cold freezers.
“That means we must be able to get the vaccines that work well, with good cost of storage and cost of delivery. That is the one we will like to get as soon as they are available.”
The situation does not look good at all considering the challenges the country is up against. Acquiring the vaccine is a challenge in itself as the minister pointed out that countries, where the vaccines are manufactured, have prioritised their citizens over others as is expected. So, we just have to hope for whatever is left from it after they have served their citizens.
On the other hand, the problem of storage looms. If Nigeria is able to acquire the ultra-cold freezers or opt for the vaccines that can be stored in the regular freezers, the epileptic power supply problem we have is a bigger challenge that would be more difficult to handle.
And at the end of the day, the vaccines might become useless and harmful to potential users. It will also amount to waste of resources if this happens. And, the underlying problem responsible for this is bad governance.
Through the years, if successive governments had cared to fix the challenge in the power sector, a lot of problems we face today would have been non-existent, including the current vaccine storage challenge we are prepping up to experience.
We can only hope that the government will learn a lesson from this experience and put structures in place to meet up with the socio-economic challenges of the 21st century as the world evolves.