In a memo titled ‘Report of Fake COVID-19 Vaccines Destined for Africa Arrested in China,’ Federal Ministry of Health said it received a letter from the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 about the confiscation of nearly 3,000 doses of fake COVID-19 vaccines which were being shipped into the continent from the East Asian country.
The report said that fake COVID-19 vaccines were already in circulation in Africa.
“To prevent the importation of fake vaccines, kindly note that the Nigeria Customs Service has designated Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport as the only point of entry (PoE) for imported COVID-19 vaccines.
“I am therefore to bring this to your notice and dispel any possibility of COVID-19 vaccines being available for sale or being administered by any unauthorized institution,” part of the statement, signed by director of hospital services Adebimpe Adebiyi in the health ministry, read.
This is, however, not the first time the government would raise such alarm. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) had, in January 2021, said that there were reports of fake vaccines in Nigeria.
The ICIR findings show that the new alarm may not be unconnected with revelation by Interpol of shipment of fake vaccine doses in South Africa on March 3, 2021. The disclosure was captured in a report in the TIME, published on March 3.
TIME noted that Interpol first issued a warning about the potential for such crimes in early December (2020), alerting law enforcement agents in its 194-member countries that criminal networks were trying to “infiltrate and disrupt supply chains” involved in the global rollout of vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
A central city of China Wuhan recorded first case of coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, in December 2019.
The virus then went on to become a global pandemic weeks later, resulting in lockdown of most nations around the world, including Nigeria.
Globally, as of 27 March 2021, there had been 125.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2.8 million deaths, according to the World Health Organization(WHO).
A total of 4,2 million cases, 111 million deaths and 3.7 million recoveries had been recorded in Africa at the time of filing this report on Saturday 27 March, 2021, according to Africa Centre for Disease Control.
As of 18 February 2021, at least seven different vaccines across three platforms had been rolled out globally to combat the pandemic, according to WHO.
The agency said more than 200 additional vaccine candidates were in development, of which more than 60 were in clinical level.
Some of the vaccines approved by WHO under its Emergency Use Listing are Pfizer-BioNTech, Mordena, AstraZeneca, Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and Novavax COVID-19 vaccine
The Emergency Use Listing procedure assesses the suitability of novel health products during public health emergencies. The objective is to make medicines, vaccines and diagnostics available as rapidly as possible to address the situation(s), while adhering to stringent criteria of safety, efficacy and quality. The assessment weighs the threat posed by the emergency as well as the benefit that would accrue from the use of the product against any potential risks.
Sensing vaccine nationalism which would ultimately leave developing nations facing acute dearth of vaccines for the virus, WHO constituted the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access COVAX) in 2020.
COVAX, formally known as The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, is a global collaboration for speeding up the development, manufacture and equitable distribution of new vaccines.
Through COVAX, Nigeria received the shipment of 3.94 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine on March 2, 2021, at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, with pomp.
Nigerian private sector-led Coalition Against Coronavirus (COCAVID) has also made significant strides to assist the country with COVID-19 vaccines.
The ICIR reported how a number of European countries suspended AstraZeneca vaccine in early March, 2021, following reports of blood clot. But the Nigeria government allayed fears over the safety of the vaccine. WHO also denounced the claim, with countries that earlier suspended the vaccine continuing with its use.
On March 21, The ICIR reported how United States and other Western countries had fallen behind in the global COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy race, citing multiple reports, including a publication by the World Politics Review, while China, Russia and India were using vaccines produced in their countries to expand spheres of influence across the world.