Senate seeks adequate funds for purchase of COVID-19 vaccine

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The Senate on Thursday, urged the Federal Government to provide adequate funds for purchase and administration of COVID-19 vaccine in the country.

The upper chamber equally directed its Committees on Health and Primary Health Care to invite the Ministry of Health and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to present to it the case plan approval, protocol, funding, procurement, administration and monitoring of COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

The Senate’s resolutions followed a Point of Order raised by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, during plenary.

The motion is tagged “Urgent need for Nigeria to obtain and administer COVID-19 vaccine to its citizens to be able to prevent the pandemic”.

Citing Orders 42 and 52 of the Senate’s Standing Rules, Oloriegbe noted that Nigeria experienced its first index of the pandemic on the Feb. 28, in Ogun.

“The Senate notes that between Feb. 28, and Dec. 2, some 67,960 cases of COVID-19 were reported in Nigeria.

“Sadly, 1,777 persons diagnosed with the condition have died while 63,829 persons have been discharged.”

He further said that to coordinate the national response to the pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari set up a presidential task force in March which had been coordinating the strategies and activities to address the challenges emanating from the COVID-19.

He, however, raised the concern of the devastating effect of COVID-19 on the social and economic lives of Nigerians including precipitating the economy to go into recession.

“The key measures implemented now for the COVID-19 are promotion of hand washing, wearing of face masks and social distancing.

“The Senate is, however, worried that the level of compliance to the measures has been diminishing.

“It is also worried that the level of testing, detection and isolation of confirmed cases have also been reducing in the country.”

The lawmaker noted that some countries had approved vaccines for COVID-19 and were administering the vaccines to their citizens.

He said that the Senate was worried that Nigeria had not produced a plan for the procurement, distribution, and administration of the vaccine to Nigerians.

“In spite of the change in the epistemological trend of the disease, the financial plan developed by the country and the World Bank in April to fund the response to the pandemic is still being implemented without taking due cognisance of the changes by allocating the fund to provide vaccines.

“Failure to administer vaccine to Nigerians will result in the country not being able to treat COVID-19 infections and a possible ban on traveling by Nigerians may be instituted by countries around the world.”

In his remarks, President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan said, “let me emphasise that if we are not able to capture this, the necessary fund, the required fund for the procurement of the vaccine, we should start thinking of that.

“If we are not able to do that in the 2021 appropriation, then we have to prepare for a supplementary appropriation because this is a matter of life and death.

“The procurement process itself, the committees of the National Assembly must ensure that our country goes for the best.

“No cutting corners because if we take the wrong vaccine, we may survive COVID-19 but not the vaccine.

“We must ensure that whatever the government decides, our health authorities decide or recommend for us as a country is what is best for our people.”

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