The Nigerian government has received 177,600 doses of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines from the African Union (AU).
This is coming barely one week after Nigeria received about 4 million doses of Moderna vaccines, which were donated by the government of the United States of America.
The vaccines, according to the executive director the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, were delivered to the country through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task (AVAT), which he said Nigeria has since subscribed to.
Mr Shuaib, who disclosed this on Thursday during an inspection of the vaccines at the country’s National Strategic Cold Store near the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, said Nigeria is one of the first countries to benefit from the partnership.
He said; “Nigeria took delivery of 177,600 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, being part of the 29,850,000 doses that the Federal Government of Nigeria procured through the AVAT of the AU Commission through the facility provided by African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK).
“The balance of the vaccine will subsequently be delivered in monthly tranches.”
To ensure widespread access to COVID-19 vaccines across Africa, the AU launched AVAT in November 2020.
The trust aims to secure vaccine doses to complement initiatives such as COVAX and attain a target immunisation of 60 per cent of Africa’s population.
It is part of the African Union’s COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access Strategy, and its goal of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of the African population with safe and efficacious vaccines against COVID-19.
Mr Shuaib said the vaccines will be strategically deployed to cover areas that have difficult terrains.
He said this will ensure health officials only administer the single-dose vaccine at once.
Mr Shuaib noted that the J&J vaccines will be part of the vaccines to be administered in the second batch of vaccination scheduled to commence on Monday.
“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.
“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,” he said.
The Regional Chief Operating Officer, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Abdoulaye Kone, said the vaccine acquisition by AVAT was a unique milestone for the African continent.
He said the delivery marks the first time that the AU Member States have collectively purchased vaccines to safeguard the health of the African population.
He disclosed that the first monthly shipment of vaccines acquired by AVAT commenced on August 5, to several member-states, and the shipments would continue for a total of 6.4m doses shipped in August.
Also speaking at the event, the World Health Organisation’s Country Representative in Nigeria, Walter Molumbo, commended the multi-sectoral approach embraced by Nigeria towards making vaccines available.
Mr Molumbo said; “As I always mentioned at different fora, vaccines are a critical tool in the battle against COVID-19.
“These vaccines are safe and effective and will be the game-changer: but for the foreseeable future, we must continue wearing masks, physically distance, and avoid crowds.”
He added that J&J vaccines are the only single-dose COVID-19 vaccines approved for use till date.
“The vaccine may be an important tool for accessing hard-to-reach populations, thus playing a key role in preventing infections and reducing deaths across Nigeria,” he said.
Nigeria’s vaccination campaign
Nigeria had commenced COVID-19 vaccination on March 5, 2021, having received approximately four million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines from COVAX.
To achieve herd immunity against the infection, Nigeria had set an ambitious goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of its over 200 million population before the end of 2021, and 70 per cent by the end of 2022.
To achieve this, “the vaccine roll-out will be in four phases, starting with health workers, frontline workers, COVID-19 rapid response team, laboratory network, policemen, petrol station workers and strategic leaders,” the head of Nigeria’s immunisation agency, Faisal Shuaib, had said.
Mr Shuaib said this second phase would capture older adults aged 50 years and above and those with comorbidities aged between 18 and 49 years of age.
The second phase is scheduled to commence next Monday.
So far, a total of 3,938,945 eligible persons across 36 states and FCT, have been vaccinated.
Mr Shuaib said 2,534,205 people have been vaccinated for the first dose and 1,404,205 have received their second dose of the vaccine