First Batch of COVID-19 Vaccines arrives Nigeria; U.S warns variants pose ‘real threat’ to vaccine progress

The NAFDAC-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, around noon on Tuesday, via an Emirates airline.

But this soothing relief may well be a stop gap given the shortcomings and reservations by some countries and high-profile persons, double down by the recent comment of Dr Rochelle Walensky, a top US health official: “… at this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress.”

The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said she was concerned by the recent Covid-19 data in US, about 70,000 new cases a day which she described as – “a very high number,” adding that nearly 2,000 deaths a day was recorded in the same period.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, had said on Saturday that Nigeria will receive its first tranche of about 4 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines.

On the ground to take delivery of them were top government officials including the PTF Chairman, Boss Mustapha; the Minister for Health, Osagie Ehanire; the Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed; and the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Chikwe Ihekweazu.

The Health Minister had last week noted that once the vaccines arrive in the country, about 70% of the population is expected to be inoculated within two years.

“We have been told to open an account with Afreximbank under the African Union; we have done that already successfully because we are going to pay for that part of the vaccine. The COVAX vaccine is free, at no cost to us, it is made from donations,” Mr Ehanire said.

“We want to immunise about 60 to 70% of our population. If COVAX immunises 20, then we have about 40 to 50 to immunise within the next two years. So, we have to pay for that minus any donations that we get like the MTN donation, for example, all those ones reduce the quantities that we have to purchase or any other that in future are given to us free of charge.

The minister made the comments on February 24, the same day that Ghana became the first country to receive vaccines from COVAX- a global scheme to procure and distribute Covid inoculations for free for poorer countries.

The 600,000 doses delivered to Ghana were the Oxford/AstraZeneca formula, made under license by the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India.

Meanwhile, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency on Monday announced that Nigerians can now register for the COVID-19 vaccination via its website.

“To register for #COVID19 Vaccination, visit our website http://nphcda.gov.ng and click on ‘COVID-19 Vaccination e-registration,” the agency said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, noted that frontline health workers would be one of the first set of people to get the vaccine.

“The first will be the frontline health workers because they are facing the battle heavily,” he said. “They will come first then, secondly, we will look at the elderly – those above 60, 65 years and particularly with comorbidities (people who have existing health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease – they will also be in that group.

“We will also be looking and the strategic leadership of the country, and then we would be looking at some other people like those at the point of entry, border post managers, and things like that; This will be the order in terms of priority for now.”

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