NIGERIAN health officials have provided assurances that the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines will arrive the country by the end of January at the latest and a mass vaccination programme will commence immediately.
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.
Dr Sani Aliyu, the national coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on the Control of Covid-19, said: “In terms of when it is going to be available in the country, there is a lot of work going on with National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and the president directed the Presidential Task Force on Control of Covid-19 two weeks ago to get involved in the nitty gritty of the efforts to ensure that the vaccines come in a timely manner.
“We expect the first batch of vaccines to come in possibly towards the end of January. The control of the pandemic will rely not only on full compliance of the non-pharmaceutical interventions but also the availability and acceptance of vaccination programmes.
“We cannot allow ourselves to become a pariah nation. We don’t really have a choice when it comes to vaccines as we have to vaccinate our public especially those that are vulnerable such as the elderly and those that are most likely to have severe illness.”
He added that a lot of work is ongoing with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and the Global Vaccine Alliance Initiative with whom the federal government has signed an agreement for access to the vaccines.
With the vaccines, the federal government is targeting to vaccinate 20% of the population in the first instance against the virus which has killed about 1,400 Nigerians and infected about 89,163 persons since the pandemic first hit the country in February last year. President Muhammadu Buhari had asked the presidential task force to coordinate the process for planning and strategy for the delivery and administration of the vaccines using the existing health structures.
A committee has already been set up by the government to select the vaccine most appropriate for the country considering that different temperatures are required to protect vaccines. So far, Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has not announced which of the vaccines it will be purchasing.