*Urges Nigerians to embrace vaccines
By Ignatius Okorocha
The National Assembly on Thursday assured Nigerians that it would ensure proper utilisation of the N500 billion COVID-19 Intervention Fund put together by the Federal Government to combat the corona virus scourge in the country.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe who made the pledge yesterday while briefing journalists on the forthcoming Annual Legislative Summit on Health in Abuja said the fund which was floated to tackle the global pandemic was a multi sectoral facility meant to address the various challenges posed by the disease in different sectors of the economy.
Addressing the media on behalf of the Joint Committees on Health of the parliament, Oloriegbe said the forthcoming summit would dwell on how Universal Health Coverage (UCH) could be achieved in Nigeria.
He disclosed that the legislature has not shirked its oversight responsibilities and has been tracking the intervention fund in terms of the allocation to the relevant institutions, capital releases and implementation.
Oloriegbe further explained that the allocation to the health sector from the intervention fund is about N86 billion while the remainder was for the other Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) relevant to the efforts at curbing the pandemic.
According to him, monitoring the utilisation of the fund in the health sector was easy as the lawmakers would look out for the specific interventions in designated health facilities and ensuring that the funds were also deployed to case management since COVID-19 patients were supposed to be treated free of charge at the public health facilities.
In addition, he said, the fund would be deployed providing and upgrading testing and treatment facilities at the teaching hospitals. These facilities, he said, included the molecular laboratories, test kits, isolation centres and intensive care units (ICUs) in these hospitals.
Oloriegbe also disclosed that the fund was meant to boost research and development of vaccines through the funding of relevant activities being undertaken by institutions such as the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and the Nigeria Institute for Medical Laboratory Technology (NIMLT) among others.
He said that contrary to the perception in some quarters that the focus on COVID-19 would result in the neglect of other diseases plaguing Nigeria, the pandemic must be seen as an opportunity to address many other health challenges in the country.
” The important thing is for us to tackle the present challenge and also use this opportunity to equip our health facilities to be able to cope with other challenges because there could be another pandemic in the future,” he said.
Oloriegbe urged Nigerians not to be apprehensive about taking the COVID-19 vaccines, insisting that they were very safe having passed the necessary regulatory checks before being rolled out.
“The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and Nigerians need not fear about taking the jabs. After all, over the years, we have been administering various vaccines meant to prevent the five childhood diseases.
We have been administering BCG, Oral Polio vaccines and these vaccines are not produced in Nigeria. So why were we not afraid that those vaccines will kill our children?
” As scientists, we have said it several times; nobody will deliberately produce a vaccine to kill people.
The process of producing vaccines are standarised and transparent. Besides, we have regulatory bodies that monitor the development of any vaccine to ensure that the end-product are safe and efficacious,” he said.