NIGERIA’S National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (Nafdac) has approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for use across the country as ministers prepare to start a mass vaccination programme next month.
Up until now, Nigeria was undecided about how to proceed with vaccination and the government had not even set aside any budget for purchasing vaccines. However, Dr Faisal Shuaib, the chief executive of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said that the government has finally decided to proceed with the AstraZeneca product.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine can be stored in a facility with temperatures of between +2 to +8 degree Celsius for a long period without it losing potency. With the decision, less emphasis will be paid to Pfizer’s BioNTech vaccine because Nigeria lacks enough space to keep the drug at + 2 to + 8 temperature not more than five days before use.
Nafdac director-general, Dr Mojisola Adeyeye said that the vaccine, recently approved by the World Health Organisation, can be stored at 2 to 8-degree centigrade, so would be ideal for Nigeria. Also known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, or AZD1222, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is a viral vector vaccine.
Dr Adeyeye said Nafdac got the dossier on the vaccine a week ago and its safety committee went to work immediately to evaluate its safety and efficacy for Nigerians. She added that there are three additional vaccines undergoing evaluation but the AstraZeneca product appears to be the vaccine most effective against the UK variant of the virus which has been reported in Nigeria.
Furthermore, Dr Adeyeye disclosed that the dreaded South African variant, reported to be resistant to vaccination has not been reported in Nigeria. She added that the agency has over 30 herbal medicines currently undergoing review for listing.
Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, which has to be kept at an extremely cold temperature (-70 degree Celsius), the Oxford/AstraZeneca’s vaccine can be stored in a normal fridge. This makes it easier to distribute.