A total of one hundred and seventy-seven thousand six hundred (177,600) shipment of the Johnson and Johnson single-shot vaccines from the African Union (AU), under the African Vaccine
Acquisition Trust (AVAT) was received on Thursday by The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and its partners.
The Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, speaking at the National Strategic Cold Store in Abuja said Nigeria was indeed among the first 10 African countries to receive the vaccines’ shipment through the partnership.
Dr. Shuaib added that the 177, 600 doses which happens to be the first shipment, would step up efforts to battle a third wave of infections across the country.
According to him, the 177,600 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, is part of the 29,850,000 doses that the Federal Government of Nigeria procured through the AVAT of the AU Commission, using the facility provided by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
He said the balance of the vaccine will subsequently be delivered in monthly tranches adding that this batch of J&J vaccine will be focused on those who are in the hard-to-reach areas, riverine areas, desert areas and security-compromised areas, the elderly and frail individuals, across the country.
Dr. Shuaib said this is because the J&J vaccine is administered as a single dose vaccine, unlike the AstraZeneca and Moderna that require two doses for complete vaccination.
The Regional Afreximbank Chief Operating officer, Abdoulaye Kone, said the vaccine acquisition by AVAT was a unique milestone for the African continent.
He said it marks the first time the AU member States have collectively purchased vaccines to safeguard the health of the African population.
He disclosed that the first monthly shipment of the vaccines acquired by AVAT commenced on August 5, to several member States, and the shipments would continue for a total of 6.4 million doses to be delivered in August.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, commended the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in Nigeria with the vaccination of front-line workers and other priority groups, who were at high risk of COVID-19.
He said Nigeria’s preparation for the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination, involving more resources and logistics, was highly commendable.
Dr. Mulombo added that a multi-sectorial approach at the different level of the government had been set-up to address issues around COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
The representative of the Africa Center for Disease Control (CDC), Dr Amadou Cheick Tidiane CISSÉ, said it was a sign of hope that the continent would finally be able to close the vaccination gap with other parts of the world.
Tidiane CISSÉ noted that the vaccines would help to save African lives and livelihoods and to resume their ways towards the continent’s development agenda.
Also speaking, representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, Dr Peter Hawkins, said the COVID-19 vaccines were the most important tool the world had against COVID-19.
Dr. Hawkins urged Nigerians that the vaccination was also providing better protection than natural immunity for adults previously infected with COVID-19, from getting re-infected.
He disclosed that the country is expected to receive another shipment of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine doses by next week.
The AVAT, established by the African COVID-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, was set up in November 2020, under the AU chairmanship of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.
It is part of the AU’s COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access Strategy, and its goal is to vaccinate at least 60 per cent of the African population with safe and efficacious vaccines against COVID-19.
According to data from a clinical trial in South Africa a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson is said to be highly effective in preventing severe illness and death from the Delta and Beta variants of the coronavirus.
Nigeria is one of the earliest to benefit from the supply deal agreed in March, 2021, to procure 220 million doses for the continent, with the potential to order another 180 million.