The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), has explained the United Kingdom(UK)’s modified COVID-19 vaccination guidelines for inbound travellers from Nigeria.

The Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, made the clarification at the agency’s weekly briefing on COVID-19 vaccination on Tuesday in Abuja.

UK has recently made some big announcements regarding international travel, including simplifying its traffic light system from October and scrapping Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), tests for fully vaccinated travellers.

The current system is separated into green, amber, and red-listed countries – each with its own requirements when it comes to quarantining, PCR testing, and vaccination status.

Shuaib said, Federal Government was already in talks with the UK government, and had been assured that Nigeria would not be among those countries on its red alert lists, says the UK government was satisfied with the types of vaccines used in the country.

Shuaib said that there have been concerns by Nigerians on how this would affect the country.

“We would like to clarify that the guidance provided by the UK Government is that they would want to simplify the classification of countries from green, amber, and red to just a red and green list. Therefore, countries that are currently on the amber list may fall into either of these two categories.

“We have had preliminary discussions with officials of the UK Government. Without prejudice to the information yet to be released, we have been assured that Nigeria will maintain the status quo.

“That is to say Nigeria will not be on the red list. The UK Government has also stated that they have no issues with the vaccines used in Nigeria.

“The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, also known as COVISHIELD that is used in Nigeria was approved by the UK regulatory body (MHRA), other stringent regulatory authorities, and the World Health Organization. So, the UK Government does recognize the vaccines used in Nigeria.

“The UK is doing a phased approach to deal with the high demand and volume of people arriving their country. It is important to stress that this phased approach is still under review by their Government and they would be providing updates regularly. For Nigeria at the moment, there is no change in the guidelines for entry of Nigerians into the UK,” he explained.

According to Shuaib, a UK citizen on entry into Nigeria regardless of the vaccination status is made to do a PCR test and isolated for seven days and the same applies for Nigerians entering the UK, you are also required to do a PCR test and isolate for a few days.

Shuaib also noted that this was called the principle of reciprocity in diplomatic circles.

“Citizens are aware that the vaccines used in Nigeria are donations from the UK Government, the Canadian Government, and the United States through the COVAX facility.

“We would also like Nigerians to note, that the number of people immunized is one of the factors that most countries assess when making travel restrictions. This is why we would continue to encourage all eligible Nigerians to visit the nearest designated health facility to get vaccinated,” he added.

Shuaib added that were beginning to see not just the UK Government but other developed Countries also instituting more stringent COVID-19 guidelines for travel and public spaces.

“As the pandemic evolves, we may get to a point where Countries would not allow the entry of unvaccinated individuals,” he noted.

Shuaib disclosed that the government would not hesitate to prosecute those who fake vaccination cards.

“With the increase in COVID-19 vaccination mandates globally, it has come to the notice of the NPHCDA and the Federal Ministry of Health, that attempts are being made by unscrupulous persons to procure the COVID-19 vaccination cards, without receiving disclosed the COVID-19 vaccines.

“NPHCDA and the Presidential Steering Committee strongly condemn these fraudulent attempts and are urging those attempting such acts to desist henceforth. The ongoing COVID-19 vaccination and the vaccination cards are totally free of charge at all designated COVID-19 vaccination sites across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT.

“Possession of vaccination cards without receiving the vaccines is criminal and punishable by law. The NPHCDA is collaborating with the State Security Services (SSS), ICPC, and other law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute any persons and their accomplices attempting to fraudulently acquire COVID-19 vaccination cards without getting vaccinated.

“Our colleague from the FCT team, the Executive Secretary of the Primary Healthcare Development Board is here to provide a detailed update on the case of criminal attempt to illegally procure vaccination card that is being investigated. The individual, in this case, is not a staff of the NPHCDA, but a staff of the FCT State Primary Healthcare Development Board.

“The NPHCDA enjoins the general public to immediately report any suspected cases of buying and selling of COVID-19 vaccination cards without receiving the vaccines to the nearest law enforcement agency or to NPHCDA through the following channels: COVID-19 hotline: 07002201122, NPHCDA website: www.nphcda.gov.ng/complaints,” he explained.

Meanwhile, He disclosed that over three million doses of the oral cholera vaccines have been secured, and plans were underway to perfect distribution to most affected states in the country.

“It is worthy of note that Nigeria has gotten the International Coordinating Group (ICG) approval for 3,566,628 doses of the oral Cholera vaccines. Based on the shortage of this vaccine globally, we are pleased that we have been able to secure some doses and we have strategically mapped out and identified areas for deployment in the three states with the highest number of cases as a reactive campaign,” he disclosed.

Shuaib noted that the country was not relenting in its fight against cholera outbreaks working side by side with the NCDC.

“We will continue to apply for more doses of the cholera vaccine. We believe that as these vaccines become readily available, Nigeria would get more doses,” he noted.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Country Representative, said that the growing evidence shows that although vaccinated individuals can still carry the virus, noting that the threat they posed was far reduced.

Mulombo urged countries to respect the international guidelines on vaccination, if anyone was vaccinated with the W.H.O approved vaccines, the individual should be treated equally regardless of the country or type of vaccines.

The representative of UNICEF, Dr. Gupta Gagan, congratulated Nigeria for successfully rolling out two vaccines.

He added that as Nigeria expands its vaccine basket further, it is important to target more people for vaccination.

Also speaking, Executive Secretary of the Primary Healthcare Development Board, FCT, Dr Iwot Ndaeyo, said that the FCT Administration had addressed the “card buying” issue and had put mechanisms in place to make sure that it does not happen again.

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