From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Nigeria’s allocation of the first batch of 3.92 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Assess Facility, COVAX, landed in Abuja aboard Emirates flight Boeing 777-300ER at 11:36 am, yesterday, amid wild jubilation.
Nigeria is the third West African country to receive the vaccines after Ghana and Cote d’voire from the COVAX facility.
The government aims to start by vaccinating frontline healthcare workers, the highest-priority recipients in Abuja on March 5, followed by strategic leaders on March 8.
Several Nigerians have taken to the portal to register for the vaccination ahead of the formal roll out.
The 3.92 million is part of the 16 million doses initially expected in the country.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, led other government officials, wearing yellow high-visibility jackets and face masks, to receive the vaccine on the airport tarmac in Abuja.
Mustapha said the arrival of the Astra-Zeneca vaccines marked a significant milestone in the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
“For over one year, humanity has remained under the siege of a virus that has impacted on lives, livelihood, destroyed economies, governance systems, medical services, socio-economic systems.
“Nations, around the world, have deployed enormous resources to tackle the virus which has seen a first wave and more virulent second wave. As at date, it has claimed over 2.5 million lives world wide and we are still counting.
“The successful development of vaccines and the accelerated process for emergency authorisation has brought hope to humanity all over the world. Its arrival in Nigeria today has been made possible through purposeful leadership by President Muhammadu Buhari, collaboration with domestic stakeholders, the international community and pain staking technical efforts to ensure what we are offering Nigerians is safe and efficacious,” he said.
The SGF said prior to the vaccines phase, government had introduced and promoted the non-pharmaceutical interventions and that these remain valid measures to take under the Infection Prevention and Control Policy.
The United States government has welcomed the arrival.The United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, in a message on its Facebook page, said it stood with Nigeria in the face of the pandemic.
“The US joins in welcoming the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine to Nigeria. We stand with Nigeria in the face of the pandemic, with over 60 staff working on a daily basis on COVID-19 response and vaccine roll out; epidemiology; outbreak response; lab operations and data analytics,” the United States said.
The United States further said it contributed $2 billion to COVAX with another $1.5 billion promised.
On its part, the United Kingdom said so far, it has committed up to £829 million for the development of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics and their distribution to developing countries.
In a statement issued by the Head of Communications, British High Commission, Abuja, Dean Hurlock, the United Kingdom said it galvanised the efforts because it wanted to be a force for good in the world.
Also, the European Union (EU), in a statement on its Facebook page, said it was the lead contributor to the COVAX scheme.
The EU also said its team mobilised €38.5 billion in response to the COVID-19 outbreak worldwide of which €8 billion for Africa.
In a message on its Facebook page, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany said: “Today, Germany welcomes the arrival of the first number doses of vaccines to Nigeria through COVAX. With 1.2 billion euro, Germany is the single biggest donor to ACT-Accelerator and COVAX.”
Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Abhay Thakur, said the supply of the vaccines to Nigeria was in keeping with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s commitment made at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2020, that “India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help humanity in fighting COVID-19.”
The Indian High Commission in Abuja, in a statement by Vipul Mesariya of its Political and Information Section, said India will be gifting 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccines to Nigeria shortly and 200,000 doses to UN peacekeepers, that include many African military personnel.