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COVID-19: Nigeria still a long way from vaccination goal – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday said Nigeria still has a long way to go on its plan to vaccinate 70 percent of its population and exit the acute phase of the pandemic, even though the country has administered the most doses in the continent.

Walter Mulombo, WHO representative to Nigeria, while stressing that vaccines remain the most effective means to defeat the pandemic, noted that the nearly 2 million doses that have been administered in the last three months are still a far cry from the plan to vaccinate over 100 million eligible Nigerians who ought to receive the jabs.

Mulombo said this at a joint press briefing on COVID-19 update in Nigeria organized by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

The WHO representative also informed that Africa witnessed a 20 percent increase in COVID-19 cases last week, but said it was too early to conclude it’s a third wave of infections.

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Faisal Shuaib, executive director/CEO, NPHCDA, informed that as at May 31, 1,956,598 of targeted eligible Nigerians have been vaccinated with their first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Of this number, he said 66 percent are frontline workers, 22 percent are healthcare workers, while 12 percent belong to the elderly group.

The ED also informed that a total of 73,465 Nigerians have received their second dose across 36 states and the FCT, including President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

On the global vaccine supply and anticipated next consignment, Shuaib said the COVAX facility has communicated that the upcoming allocation is likely from July-September 2021.

“The exact dates are still being finalized. Nevertheless, bilateral conversations are ongoing to see how we can access the surplus vaccines being stockpiled by developed countries,” Shuaib said.

“On this, we are working closely with the Embassies and High Commissions in Nigeria. Our communication remains clear that the allocation of vaccines from friendly countries is most useful now, not later when vaccines become widely available,” he said.

While the global community is pushing for equity, justice and fair play in the global allocation of vaccines, Shuaib said the Federal Ministry of Health is working with critical stakeholders to fast-track the establishment of local vaccine production plants in Nigeria.

This initiative, according to him, will be seizing on the environment created by the lopsided availability of vaccines, momentum around intellectual property waivers and health security imperatives that vaccines represent.

Shuaib said the process of setting up local vaccine plants will take at least 18 months.

“We are looking at the inequalities that exist with vaccine access and looking at how we can fast track the process of vaccine production in Nigeria. It will take a minimum of 18 months to see those plants established, but we cannot say because it will take that long we will not embark on that journey,” he said.

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