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The delivery will mark the first arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria and make the country the next West African nation to benefit from COVAX Facility after Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
A joint statement issued by NPHCDA, WHO and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said the arrival of the vaccine would kick-start vaccination of Nigerians in priority groups, starting with the frontline healthcare workers.
“The arrival of this vaccine is the result of the commitment of the federal government of Nigeria, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, the support of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, and the guidance of the Hon. Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire,” Shuaib, who read the statement, said.
“We are fully prepared to receive and deliver the vaccine to eligible Nigerians as we have commenced the training of health workers and ensured that cold chain facilities are ready at all levels.”
Though there were concerns about Nigeria’s ability to maintain the appropriate cooling temperature, Shuaib assured that the country had a robust cold chain system that could store all types of COVID-19 vaccine in accordance with the required temperature.
The NPHCDA boss emphasised the agency’s resolve to prioritise health workers in the country while managing patients affected by the pandemic.
He said there were plans to vaccinate 70 percent of eligible Nigerians from age 18 above, in four phases within two years.
According to him, the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine was part of an overall 16 million doses planned to be delivered to Nigeria in batches over the next months by the COVAX Facility. This, he stressed, was part of a global effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are therefore confident that we will have a very effective roll-out of the vaccine, starting with our critical healthcare workers, who are in the frontline in providing the care we all need,” Shuaib added.
The COVAX Facility is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), with UNICEF as a key implementing partner.
Ghana recently received its batch of the COVAX vaccine.
On February 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) made interim recommendations for use of the vaccine, including the need to give priority to health workers, older people, especially those beyond age 65.
“The COVAX Facility has worked exceptionally hard to ensure that Nigeria gets the vaccine as soon as possible so it can start its vaccination programme to the largest population in Africa,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria country representative.
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed multiple lives globally. About 114 million persons have been infected across the world, resulting in about 2.53 million deaths.
In the United States alone, over 500, 000 deaths have been recorded due to COVID-19.
In Nigeria, as of Saturday, February 27, 155,417 cases had been recorded in the country, with 1,905 deaths and 133,256 discharged cases.
According to the WHO, those with ‘a history of severe allergic reaction’ should not take the vaccine.
Moreover, “the vaccine is not recommended for persons younger than 18 years of age pending results of further studies.”