HEALTH minister Dr Osagie Ehanire has assured Nigerians that they will begin receiving the new coronavirus vaccine as from January next year following the entering into an agreement between the federal government and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Although spared the worst excesses of the global pandemic, Nigeria has had to contend with the debilitating effects of the virus that included the shutting down of the economy. This included the closing of all land, sea and air borders and placing restrictions on international travel.
With the lockdown now being eased worldwide, Nigeria is gradually returning to the global marketplace but to avoid facing restrictions, the country will need to vaccinate its population. Following the acceptance of the Pfizer vaccine, many nations plan mass vaccination programmes and unless Nigeria follows suits, she may be shut out of the global economy.
Nigeria has not purchased any quantities of the vaccine and has no plans to manufacture it locally, raising fears in certain quarters. To make matters worse, there is no provision for the purchase of the vaccine in the 2021 budget, which has led to concerns that certain countries may bar flights to and from Nigeria,
Seeking to allay such fears, Dr Ehanire, has promised that Nigerians will start getting the Covid-19 vaccine as from January, 2021. He added that the federal government has entered into negotiations with WHO and the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (Gavi) to ensure the vaccine is available in Nigeria.
Dr Enahire said: “We’ve signed up with the World Health Organisation and Gavi for access to vaccines immediately they’re available. However, you know that these vaccines are new and are in packets and the producers aren’t given any indemnity.
“These countries where these vaccines are manufactured, have of course, given themselves the priority to serve themselves and we hope that the pressure from the WHO and Gavi will be able to get reserves for other countries that aren’t manufacturing and they’ll be able to attend to what will be signed up to. We signed up for advanced market participation in Covax, so, if we will be able to get our own, I think it’ll be in January.”
Earlier this month, senators warned that other countries could impose travel restrictions on Nigerians if the federal government fails to administer Covid-19 vaccines to its citizens when mass vaccinations start. So far, Nigeria does not have a coherent vaccination programme, there are no plans to manufacture a vaccine in the country and it is not clear if the Pfizer drug will be made available to everyone free of charge.