COVID-19: Vaccines expected by Nigeria will no longer arrive in January – Official

The Nigerian government on Monday said the 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech approved COVID-19 vaccines expected in the country by the end of January will no longer arrive until February.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, while speaking at its briefing said efforts to access and deploy the COVID-19 vaccines are progressing.

“The effort to access and deploy vaccines is progressing and as already announced by COVAX, the initial 100,000 doses Nigeria is expecting will now arrive in the early weeks of February,” Mr Mustapha said.

The Nigerian government had announced that at least 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines will arrive the country by the end of January through the COVAX co-financing public-private facility.

But several global health experts and bodies told PREMIUM TIMES late December, 2020 that it is “almost impossible” for Nigeria to start receiving vaccines in January.

Distribution campaigns across Africa are not likely to begin until April, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated. Even then, fewer doses will be sent to African countries than are being shipped to the United States and Europe.

“It will be extremely terrible to see,” said John Nkengasong, the Africa CDC director.

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, also hinted that the vaccines may not arrive the country as soon as expected.

“We are working very hard to get vaccines for our people. It may not come soon enough, therefore we need to be alive to get the vaccines when they come,” Mr Mamora said at a PTF briefing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in late November 2020 that the African continent is “far from ready” to roll out what will be its largest-ever immunisation drive.

Nigeria recently acquired three ultra-cold freezers needed to store the expected vaccines.

“Each of this ultra-cold freezer has 700 litres capacity, that is a total of 2,100 capacity. The requirement for the 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines that will be available by the end of January/February is 500 litres, so we have enough capacity for the 100,000 doses,” the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said while addressing PREMIUM TIMES and journalists at the facility recently.

Other vaccines

Nigeria is also expecting other vaccines before mid-2021. The Nigerian government said it is expecting ‘free’ 42 million doses of vaccines in the second phase through the COVAX facility.

These vaccines will, however, cover only about 20 per cent of Nigeria’s over 200 million estimated population.

Last week Monday, Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, said efforts are ongoing to secure 10 million doses of the viral vector vaccines to cover an additional 50 per cent of the population.

Nigeria already has a storage facility for other approved COVID-19 vaccines, according to the NPHCDA boss.

“Apart from the Pfizer vaccines, there are other vaccines in the portfolio of the COVAX and other vaccine candidates. Our plan is not to over-invest in ultra-cold chain equipment given that there are other vaccines that can be kept between + 2 and + 8 degree Celsius,” he said.

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