From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has said Nigeria does not know when its own share of the the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines will arrive the country, as it is totally out of its hands.
This is coming against the backdrop of the initial expectation of the vaccine delivery by the end of February.
Ehanire, while responding to questions from State House Correspondents at the end of a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, said the delivery of the vaccines is not in the hands of the Nigerian government.
He said the country is expecting the vaccines from three donor sources, which should satisfy the need of the country without having to procure more.
According to him, the country is expecting its supplies from COVAX facilitated by the World Health Organisation (WHO); the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) and African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) set up by the African Union.
This, he said, is apart from individuals, government and organisations that are making vaccine donations to the country.
“Now, you can see all of these are coming from various sources but put together, they almost satisfy our needs so that we don’t really need to go procure.
“But the question is, when they are delivering is not in our hands. It is the hand of the person who is bringing it to us.
“We have been told to open an account with Afreximbank under the African Union, we have done that already successfully because we are going to pay for that part of the vaccine. The COVAX vaccine is free, at no cost to us, it is made from donations.
“We want to immunise about 60 to 70 percent of our population. If COVAX immunises 20, then we have about 40 to 50 to immunise within the next two years.
“So, we have to pay for that minus any donation that we get like the MTN donation. For example, all those ones reduce the quantities that we have to purchase or any other that, in future, are given to us free of charge.
“Now, the COVAX will start delivering to African countries at the end of February. That’s what they told us. But they didn’t tell us which country is first or which is second, which is third.
“So, COVAX begins to deliver before the end of February. And we hope before the end of this month, it would be our turn or latest by beginning of next month,” he said.
“As for us here, we are ready to use vaccination once it arrives, we met all the conditions. They have asked us to sign an indemnification form, we have done that. Indemnification means that you do not hold us responsible for anything that happens from using this vaccine.
“That’s a standard process. We’ve signed that indemnification and so we are waiting for the vaccines to arrive anytime.
“I don’t think they will arrive in all African countries at the same time. They arrive one by one, stage by stage or the order in which they arrive is determined by COVAX that is the entity donating this vaccine.
“Now the largest number of vaccines we are getting is AstraZeneca in Africa, and this AstraZeneca is made under the licence. It’s a UK vaccine but is manufactured under licence by the Serum Institute of India. So, Serum Institute of India is donating all these vaccines.”
On why Nigeria is receiving the AstraZeneca vaccines whose rollout has been discontinued by South African government, because it was found to be less effective, the minister said WHO has said the country can make use of it.
Ehanire added that the South African variant of the virus is not in Nigeria, noting therefore that the AstraZeneca vaccine can provide immunity to citizens.