NIGERIAN government officials have decided to proceed with the purchase of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine later this year as part of its programme to combat the spread of the virus across the country.
Medical experts have warned that Nigeria needs to set aside N540.4bn ($1.4bn) to purchase 218.m doses of the new coronavirus vaccine if the nation wants to combat the growing second wave of the pandemic currently sweeping across the globe. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria will require about $1.4bn to procure and distribute 218,400,000 doses of Covid-19 for double doses for 60% of its population.
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.
Dr Shuaib said: “The AstraZeneca type Oxford vaccines are the ones that we want to invest in because we already have the infrastructure across the country to be able to store the vaccines. In Nigeria, as I speak, almost every single political ward has one freezer that can keep these vaccines at the right temperature.
“Only about 700 political wards do not have this type of equipment and we are hopeful that if we keep installing them at the pace that we want to, hopefully by the end of this year, we will be able to finish installing. That way, in every single political ward, we will have the right equipment to be able to store our routine immunisation vaccines, including the Covid-19 vaccines at + 2 to +8 degree Celsius.”
Also, the NPHCDA boss added that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control would assess and certify the vaccine to ensure that it is safe. He added that the first 100,000 doses of a vaccine will be arriving in Nigeria in February.
Oxford’s AstraZeneca vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus known as an adenovirus from chimpanzees. When the vaccine is injected into a patient, it prompts the immune system to start making antibodies and primes it to attack any coronavirus infection.
Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, which has to be kept at an extremely cold temperature (-70 degree Celsius), the Oxford vaccine can be stored in a normal fridge. This makes it easier to distribute.