Nigeria becomes third country in Africa to receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccine under COVAX initiative

Nigeria on Tuesday became the third country in Africa, after Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire last week, to receive its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine under the COVAX initiative.

The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by the Serum institute of India (SII), was shipped to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, from Mumbai, India.

The United Nations Country Team in Nigeria and COVAX announced the arrival of nearly 4 million (3.94 million) doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to Nigeria as part of the first round of vaccine allocations through the COVAX Facility.

“The arrival of these vaccines in Abuja today marks a milestone for the COVAX Facility in its unprecedented effort to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines globally by the end of 2021,” said Edward Kallon, UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria.

September 22, 2017, New York City. Edward Kallon, UN RC/RR of Nigeria at Humanitarian Support Initiative hosted by UNFPA for Refugee Women & Children in the Lake Chad Basin © Lei Phyu/ UNDP 
September 22, 2017, New York City. Edward Kallon, UN RC/RR of Nigeria at Humanitarian Support Initiative hosted by UNFPA for Refugee Women & Children in the Lake Chad Basin © Lei Phyu/ UNDP

“The COVAX facility is expected to distribute around 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the African Region in the first quarter of 2021 and has committed to providing up to 600 million doses to the region by end-2021 to cover 20 per cent of the population,” he added, according to the joint statement.

Last week, Ghana became the first African country – and first country outside of India – to receive Covid-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility followed by Côte d’Ivoire. Both countries have begun administering the vaccines.

According to Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative (UNICEF is a COVAX partner), there have been ‘more than 150,000 Nigerians infected with the virus and over 1,800 lives lost’. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) of Nigeria will start administering the vaccine to “frontline healthcare workers” followed by other “priority groups”.

Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the WHO Representative in Nigeria congratulated the Nigerian government on its participation in the COVAX program; Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director for County Programs at GAVI praised the ‘excellent level of preparedness put in place by the government of Nigeria’ – both the WHO and GAVI are part of COVAX.

In addition to distributing vaccines, COVAX and its affiliates have worked to ensure that plans, infrastructure, and equipment are in place before vaccines arrive. “For several months, COVAX partners have been supporting governments and partners in readiness efforts, in preparation for this moment,” read the joint statement.  

Mr. Maphosa also stated that GAVI, ‘looks forward’ to ‘ensuring that routine immunization services for other life-threatening infections are also delivered to avoid other disease outbreaks’.

A World Health Organization (WHO) report published in November wrote that, “Yellow Fever (YF) outbreaks are considered high risk at national level, low at regional and global levels”.

In addition to reports of Yellow fever outbreaks, “Nigeria is facing several concurrent public health emergencies, including circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus (cVDPV), measles, monkeypox, Lassa fever and cholera outbreaks as well as humanitarian crisis in the northeast of the country”.

While the Nigerian government has taken measures to “slow the spread” of the virus, these measures and the resources needed have “severely disrupted access to core essential health services”; they have also limited the health system’s ability respond to outbreaks of other diseases.

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