At last, the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) has clarified that only the Federal Government, through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) can obtain any COVID-19 vaccine for Nigeria in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The coalition also explained that the process of buying the vaccines through the Federal Government has commenced and also that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as an official regulatory body, has to approve the vaccine and certify it before use by Nigerians.
These clarifications were made by the Administrator of CACOVID, Mrs. Zouera Youssoufou, while speaking in Lagos during the Global Business Report programme on ARISE TV News. The clarification was made in reference to media reports that BUA (a member of CACOVID) had purchased a million doses of COVID-19 (AstraZeneca) vaccines through Afreximbank for Nigerians.
Responding to questions on how the CACOVID Collegiate Fund Works, Youssoufou, said, “The way this works is that we, as a group, agree on what to actually purchase, on how to purchase it and what the modalities of the purchase would be. This is how the group has been working since we were created back in March 2020. As you know we have several things including testing, test kits and getting isolation centres, PPEs, palliatives, communications among many others.
“So the purchase of the vaccines is very similar to the purchase of the testing supplies, meaning that we do this through very validated and subsidised means. Right now there are three mechanisms that Nigeria is participating in. One called COVAX, one called the African Union Vaccine Acquisition Task Force which is funded by Afreximbank, and the third one is the World Bank, which is also funding some of these vaccines.
“Nigeria as a country is a member of all these organisations. We as the CACOVID, the private sector coalition against COVID, our role is to support our government in what is needed in order to help our people in the context of this COVID-19. So I think the important thing that we all need to know is that there are several steps to procuring vaccines. The first thing is that government are the ones who can actually buy vaccines, so we as a private sector group, as individual companies, cannot buy vaccines, we can’t call AstraZeneca or Pfizer or Moderna to order vaccines from them. That is the first thing.
“The second thing is that the distribution of the vaccines and how they would be shared in our country has to be done by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) which is the only agency in our country mandated to handle vaccines and so far, as you know people, children are being vaccinated everyday BCG, Polio. So those vaccines, that whole process is managed by the NPHCDA and they are going to be the ones managing this process too. So it is not a matter of sending money to the Central Bank, that is one step. But the real step is how do we get the vaccines into Nigeria and how do we distribute them to the people.
“I think the most over-looked element in this discussion on that aspect about getting vaccines next week, is that AstraZeneca or any vaccine has yet to be approved by NAFDAC, which is our regulatory agency. So without the approval of NAFDAC, there is no vaccine that can come into Nigeria and be distributed to Nigerians or shot into the arms of Nigerians. And I think this is where some of the misinformation had come in.”
On a question on the statement from BUA that the Central Bank of Nigeria put out a call to the CACOVID members on a small window through which to procure these vaccines, where someone had to step and they (BUA) came in and put up the money, Youssoufou replied, “First thing, I was on a call with the Afreximbank President on February 7 with Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe and Godwin Emefiele, and in that call, President Oranmah (Benedict) was explaining to us their model and how this task force was working with the AU and how they have set up a $2 billion facility to help fund the vaccines for Nigeria and for African countries, and that the allocation of 42 million vaccines had been made for Nigeria.
“He also told us about an extra one million doses that we can get if we can confirm that we wanted those doses immediately by the next day February 8. And so CACOVID leaders agreed that yes, this was a good thing and would bring it to the meeting the very next day, which happened. So we had the meeting yesterday (February 8) and that discussion actually happened. What is really important to know is that Afreximbank, after that call, already secured those doses for Nigeria because they had the confirmation from the Central Bank Governor, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and Herbert Wigwe that they would pay for these one million doses.
“Now, the doses don’t come in; it’s not as if we get a million doses of vaccines one day getting dumped into Nigeria; they get delivered at a specific pace. So we might get a hundred thousand (100,000) immediately, 150,000 the next week, and then let’s say another hundred thousand. So we will never get a million doses in one single day coming into Nigeria at once. And in order for that to happen, we have to work very closely with both the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency which I just explained are the ones who would be managing this process of getting the vaccine into people’s arms, but also sorting out the logistics.
“Vaccines have to be stored at a certain temperature; when they land from the plane, they come out of a cooler, they have to be transferred to another freezer. Then we have to get those vaccines across the country. We also have to follow a very logical logistics chain of how we are going to get the vaccines from point A to point B, what centres are going to get them, who are the people who are going to get vaccinated, where the health workers are going to be doing the vaccinations.
“This is the work that the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency does. Dr. Faisal Shuaib (Executive Director NPHCDA) has to be part of this conversation in order for us to have any legitimacy in bringing vaccines back into Nigeria. So that is the way it happened. But in terms of the vaccine being secured, the vaccines are already secured because President Oranmah said ‘I’ll hold these for you’ for Nigeria. Now we need to get AstraZeneca approved in Nigeria and that’s not for us to do but for NAFDAC to do and then the payment that would go from CACOVID to Afreximbank on behalf of Nigeria for these vaccines would then happen.
“So nobody is disputing a transfer into Central Bank account; nobody is saying that did not happen, that is not where the challenge is. The challenge is the claim that one company has brought vaccines into Nigeria because that is not factual,” Youssoufou added.
In a statement issued to clear the air on the COVID-19 vaccines purchase, the Coalition noted in part that, “These claims are not factual as CACOVID operates on a collegiate fund contribution model. There is no agreement between BUA, CACOVID and Afreximbank.”
According to the statement, CACOVID leadership agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria, noting that “these 1 million doses from Afreximbank worth $3.45 million, being the very first tranche. CACOVID will purchase vaccines through other credible and subsidised mechanisms such as COVAX.”
“CACOVID would like the Nigerian public to understand that vaccine purchase is only possible through the Federal Government of Nigeria, and that no individual or company can purchase vaccines directly from any legitimate and recognised manufacturer,” it said.