The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and other partners have inspected the first shipment of 177,600 Johnson and Johnson single-shot vaccines from the African Union (AU), under the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that 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.
Speaking on Thursday at the National Strategic Cold Store, the Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said Nigeria was indeed among the first 10 African countries to receive the vaccines’ shipment through the partnership.
Shuaib added that the 177, 600 doses would step up efforts to battle a third wave of infections across the country.
“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, using the facility provided by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank)
“The balance of the vaccine will subsequently be delivered in monthly tranches.
“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.
“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,” Shuaib said.
The 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, according to data from a clinical trial in South Africa.
The Regional Afreximbank Chief Operating officer, Mr Abdoulaye Kone, said that the vaccine acquisition by AVAT was a unique milestone for the African continent.
It marks the first time that the AU member States have collectively purchased vaccines to safeguard the health of the African population, Kone said.
He disclosed that the first monthly shipment of the vaccines acquired by AVAT commenced on Aug. 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 that Nigeria’s preparation for the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination, involving more resources and logistics, was highly commendable.
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.
”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.
“The J&J vaccine we have today was listed for emergency use by WHO on the March 12, 2021. The vaccine has been authorized for use in Europe, the United States and other countries.
“As the only single dose COVID-19 vaccine approved for use to 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.
“Let me seize this opportunity to say that this pandemic still has a long way to run: Nigeria is experiencing a 3rd wave and we need to work together to ensure that all preventive measures put in place are maximized, to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our lives,” he said.
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.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, which continues to devastate lives and livelihoods in Africa and globally, it has been clear that safe and efficacious vaccines are our only way out, he said.
Also speaking, representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, Dr Peter Hawkins, said that COVID-19 vaccines were the most important tool the world had against COVID-19.
Hawkins urged Nigerians that 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.
NAN reports that 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 the Republic of South Africa.
It is part of the AU’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.
The agreement with Johnson & Johnson was made possible through a USD 2 billion facility provided by Afreximbank, who are also the Financial and Transaction Advisers, guarantors, instalment payment advisers and Payment Agents.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) coordinated the alignment of the AU Ministers of Finance on the financing arrangements.
The UNICEF supported by the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) is providing logistical and delivery services to the various AU member States.