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COVID-19: It will take Nigeria years to meet vaccination target

Akwa Ibom worries over low COVID-19 vaccination coverage

Nigeria’s target to extend COVID-19 vaccination to 70 percent of the population by 2022 has been judged an overoptimistic goal that may not be attained even in 2023.

It could take several years before the country is largely protected against the coronavirus pandemic according to the Economist Intelligence Unit outlook on Nigeria’s COVID-19 trajectory for 2022.

The outlook shows that inconsistency in global vaccine supply, insecurity, healthcare infrastructure gaps, financing constraints, and widespread anti-vaccine sentiment will continue to slow vaccine administration.

Herd immunity could automatically turn to dust given how new coronavirus variants have been deflecting attention from primary vaccinations to booster doses, leaving a negligible number of Nigerians protected and the majority unprotected.

“We judge Nigeria’s 40 percent inoculation target for 2021 to be over-optimistic even in the medium to long term. Slow delivery, distribution, and uptake of vaccines could have advantages regarding mutations; edits to vaccine formulae are likely to be finalised by late 2021, and by the time that Nigeria is able to procure doses, the vaccine could be better able to counter mutations in the virus.” Economist Intelligence Unit said in its country outlook for Nigeria in 2022.

“However, herd immunity is likely to be highly difficult to attain, and Nigeria cannot afford lockdowns for any prolonged period. It could be several years before the Nigerian population is fully inoculated.”

Nigeria ended 2021 with 31 percent of its vaccination target unmet.

Read also: COVID 19: Delta attains 7.05% vaccination

Slightly over 10 million (9 percent) of the total eligible population have received their first doses as of December 29, while, over 4.4 million (4 percent) received second doses, data from the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) shows.

This slow pace of vaccine distribution in many Sub-Saharan African countries holds implication for global recovery and creates opportunities for variants that could prove resistant to current vaccines to emerge, EIU forecast states.

It is expected that while rich countries will be able to lift social distancing measures, poorer ones will continue to battle against the pandemic. This could weigh on tourism, with some vaccinated people reluctant to travel to unvaccinated places.

Also, the continued circulation of the virus, even if only in a handful of countries, increases the risk that more aggressive variants will emerge, and if they prove partly resistant to vaccines, they could wipe out progress in containing the pandemic and further delay the recovery.

In addition, EIU projects that the virus is likely to remain prevalent for several years in an endemic form, making living with COVID-19 the new normal.

Despite this, analysts continue to differ on economic impact, with views that the coronavirus may not leave any serious dent on Nigeria’s economy as cases remain below 300, 000 after four waves.

Akinloye Ayorinde, investment research analyst at United Capital told BusinessDay earlier that “as long as the economy continues to operate and economic activities are allowed to continue normally, even with the presence of the new variant, it should not have a significant impact on economic recovery. But it is important that measures are put in place to ensure that new variants don’t spread into the country,” Ayorinde said.

EIU expects Nigeria to ultimately rely on low-cost and easy-to-store vaccines, especially the Oxford University-AstraZeneca (UK) vaccine and probably a drip-feed from other producers, namely Moderna (US) and Jonson & Johnson (US).