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COVID-19 vaccines shipped by COVAX arrive in Nigeria – WHO

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Nigeria has received nearly four million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, shipped via the COVAX Facility, a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO.

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) working in partnership with UNICEF, the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others.

WHO Office in Nigeria, in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday, stated that the arrival marked a historical step toward equitable distribution of the vaccines.

“The arrival marked a historic step toward the goal to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.

“The delivery is part of a first wave of arrivals in Nigeria that will continue in the coming days and weeks.

“COVAX shipped 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) from Mumbai to Abuja.’’

The statement quoted Edward Kallon, UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, as saying, “the UN Country Team in Nigeria reiterates its commitment to support the vaccination campaign in Nigeria and help contain the spread of the virus.

“The arrival of these vaccines in Abuja today marks a milestone for the COVAX Facility in its unprecedented effort to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines globally by the end of 2021.”

The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine would enable the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to commence the vaccination of Nigerians in priority groups, starting with frontline healthcare workers.

The statement also quoted Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director for Country Programmes at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as saying, “This is a landmark moment for the country.

“It is a landmark moment for the country and the COVAX Facility’s mission to help end the acute phase of the pandemic by enabling equitable access to these vaccines across the world.

“We are glad to see Nigeria is amongst the first receiving the doses from COVAX, thanks to the excellent level of preparedness put in place by the Government of Nigeria.

“Gavi looks forward to these vaccines being made available to the people most at risk, as soon as possible and to ensuring that routine immunisation services for other life-threatening infections are also delivered to avoid other disease outbreaks.”

The statement further quoted Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Representative in Nigeria, as saying: “It is heart-warming to witness this epoch-making event.

“WHO wishes to congratulate the government of Nigeria for its participation in the global vaccine collaboration (COVAX) efforts and its commitment to protecting Nigerians against this pandemic.

“Vaccines are a critical new tool in the battle against COVID-19; therefore, this is a step in the right direction.

“These vaccines have undergone rigorous regulatory processes at global and country level and have been deemed safe and effective.”

The COVAX Facility is expected to deliver around 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the African Region in the first quarter of 2021 and has committed to providing up to 600 million doses to the region by end-2021 to cover 20 per cent of the population.

“After a year of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, today we celebrate the efforts being made in getting the vaccine to Nigeria.

“With more than 150,000 Nigerians infected with the virus and over 1,800 lives lost, the path to recovery for the people of Nigeria can finally begin.

“This is a very significant occasion – the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines into Nigeria is critical in curbing the pandemic.

“The only way out of this crisis is to ensure that vaccinations are available to all,” the statement quoted Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, as saying.

The COVAX Facility thanks the governments, foundation and other donors who contributed to making this milestone happen – including the generous support of the European Commission, countries of the European Union, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Cecilia Ologunagba

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