The Nigerian government says the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines which were received on Tuesday will be deployed for vaccination after the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) tests them to ensure that what Nigeria received meets the expected quality and standard.
Nigeria received a total of 3,924,000 doses of the vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja from Mumbai.
The delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine is part of an overall 16 million doses planned to be delivered to Nigeria in batches over the next months by the COVAX Facility.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, while addressing journalists after receiving the vaccines at the airport, noted that the arrival of the vaccines marks a milestone in the history of Nigeria and in the national response to COVID-19, and vaccination of eligible Nigerians will kick off after NAFDAC carries out necessary tests.
“In the last one year, the entire world has been harassed by this virus. In Nigeria, over 1,900 have lost their lives. Nigeria has received 3,924,000 million doses today, we will begin the vaccination exercise after tests by NAFDAC and vaccination is going to be in four phases,” Mustapha said.
“The objective is that by the time we get to the fourth phase, 70 percent of our population would have been vaccinated and that will take us near herd immunity and set us on the path to return to our new normal,” he said.
He urged Nigerians to, in the meantime, continue to adhere to non-pharmaceutical measures before deployment is completed.
The SGF also assured Nigerians that the vaccines are safe, very effective and efficacious and urged the eligible citizens in the first phase to make themselves available.
“The vaccines will do you no harm; this is for the good and wellbeing of Nigerians. Nobody is intending to kill you,” he urged.
Mustapha further informed that the PTF, working with the Federal Ministry of Health/NPHCDA, shall also ensure transparency, efficiency and economy under the process.
He further urged all stakeholders (traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil societies, respectable Nigerians, the media, etc) to carry the message on the significance of being vaccinated to the grassroots and all segments of the society.
The director general, NAFDAC, Mojisola Adeyeye, also speaking, said once the vaccines get into the warehouse, the agency will get samples to test, to ensure that what is coming from India is of quality and that what was manufactured in India is what Nigeria is getting.
“We have been working round the clock to make sure that once the vaccines arrive we can test it very well to be sure that what is coming from India is of quality,” she said.
The chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases, Chukwuka Utazi, assured that government will ensure that the vaccines reach the most vulnerable first in its effort towards ensuring equitable distribution.
He also urged Nigerians to make themselves available so that the country can reach the desired herd immunity.
Development partners such as United States Embassy, UNICEF, WHO, Indian Embassy, EU, among others congratulated Nigerians on receiving the biggest consignment to be shipped by COVAX in the West African region.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF, the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others.
Nigeria is the third country in West Africa to receive vaccines from COVAX after Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Nigeria is also the first country to receive the highest number of doses from the facility.
Ghana has received 600,000 doses while Ivory Coast received 504,000 doses from COVAX.
The SGF, DG, NCDV, Minister of Health, Minister of Education, DG NAFDAC, Minister of Information and other top government officials as well as development partners were present at the event.