Nigeria has been scheduled to take delivery of 3.92 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
This was made known in a joint statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) on Sunday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the country was earlier set to receive its first four million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from COVAX Facility, a global scheme to procure and distribute inoculations for free.
The COVAX Facility is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, with UNICEF as a key implementing partner.
It was launched in April 2020 to help ensure a fairer distribution of coronavirus vaccines between rich and poor nations.
COVAX said it would deliver two billion doses to its members by the end of 2021.
According to the statement signed by WHO, UNICEF and NPHCDA, the delivery of 3.92 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine would mark the first arrival of COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.
It would also make Nigeria the next West African country to benefit from the COVAX Facility after Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
“The arrival of the vaccine will enable the NPHCDA to commence vaccination of Nigerians in priority groups, starting with frontline healthcare workers, the statement quoted Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director and Chief Executive of NPHCDA, as saying.
The statement also quoted Shuaib as saying that arrival of the vaccine would be a result of the commitment of the Federal Government, support of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and guidance of the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire.
“We are fully prepared to receive and deliver the vaccine to eligible Nigerians, as we have commenced training of health workers and ensured that cold chain facilities are ready at all levels.
“We have a robust cold chain system that can store all types of COVID-19 vaccine in accordance with the required temperature.
“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.”
The statement said that the doses of AstraZeneca vaccine were part of an overall 16 million doses planned to be delivered to Nigeria in batches over the next months by the COVAX Facility as part of an unprecedented global effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“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,” it quoted Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, as saying.
According to the statement, vaccines are a critical tool in the battle against COVID-19.
“In the meantime, Nigerians must continue to take steps to contain the virus, as the vaccination programme will take at least a year before it is fully effective,” the statement quoted Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Representative in Nigeria, as saying.
NAN reports that Nigeria plans to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the citizens, aged 18 years and above, in four phases within two years.