The Federal Government has received 699,760 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, donated by the UK government.
According to the Acting British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Gill Atkinson, the donation is part of the 80 million doses the country had pledged to support the COVID-19 fight.
“The UK was one of the first countries to back COVAX with £548m. We have consistently pushed for a global effort that helps every country receive the vaccine against COVID-19. I am so pleased to see Nigeria receive 699, 760 doses, donated by the UK, in their second batch of the vaccine through COVAX,” Atkinson said.
She called on citizens to take advantage of the availability of the vaccines and get herd immunity against the virus.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) said the vaccines will be deployed immediately, with priority on those who already took the first jab.
The World Health Organization said Friday a shortfall in COVID-19 vaccine doses going through the Covax programme in June and July could undermine the efficiency of the roll-out.
Covax was set up to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, particularly to low-income countries, and has already delivered more than 80 million doses to 129 territories.
But that is “about 200 million doses behind where we want to be”, Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s Covax frontman, told reporters in Geneva.
So while wealthy countries had pledged to give some 150 million doses so far — on top of the doses Covax procures with donated funds — that would not resolve the problem.
“We are setting up for failure if we don’t get early doses. We are not on track yet: we don’t have enough doses from enough countries early enough to get the world on track to get out of this,” Aylward said.
While the pledges to donate 150 million doses through Covax was a “great start”, Aylward said there were “two big problems”.
“Number one, very little is committed to the June-July period, which means we’re going to still have this gap,” Aylward said.
“The other problem is just the volume. If we are going to get on track to get at least 30-40 percent of the world population vaccinated this year we got to get another 250 million people vaccinated between now and the end of September.”
Covax is an international scheme co-led by the WHO, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
It intends to procure enough vaccines for 30 percent of the population in 92 of the poorest participating territories — 20 percent in India — with donors covering the cost.
Covax has been hit by inequalities in the global vaccine roll-out, but also delivery delays.
AstraZeneca shots making up 97 percent of doses supplied so far — the rest being Pfizer-BioNTech.
The Serum Institute of India, producing AstraZeneca doses, was to have been the backbone of Covax’s supply chain. However, New Delhi restricted vaccine exports to combat a devastating domestic surge.
SII said Wednesday that it hoped to resume supplies to Covax over the next few months.
Covax was set up to combat the likelihood of rich countries buying up most available vaccine doses — which occurred as predicted.
On Thursday, the world hit the milestone of two billion Covid-19 vaccines having been injected around the world, according to an AFP count.
But of those doses, 37 percent have been administered in high-income countries accounting for 16 percent of the global population.
Just 0.3 percent have been administered in the 29 lowest-income countries, home to nine percent of the world’s people.
The Syrian government received more than 200,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine via the Covax programme Thursday, state media said, in the first such shipment to government-held territory.
The delivery comes as Syria’s war-ravaged medical sector grapples with a Covid-19 outbreak that has accelerated rapidly in recent months.
The health ministry “received the first batch of vaccines provided by the Covax platform, which consist of 203,000 doses,” the official SANA news agency said.
On Wednesday, the war-torn northwest of the country had received 53,800 AstraZeneca doses from Covax, the first such delivery to the country’s last major opposition bastion.
Covax is jointly led by the public-private alliance Gavi, the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
It has already sent vaccine doses to more than 100 countries and territories worldwide.
In a joint statement, Gavi, WHO and the UN’s agency for children UNICEF said Thursday’s vaccine delivery marked “a great day of hope.”
“The imminent roll-out of the vaccines will bring protection to health workers, who continue their lifesaving work amid the pandemic,” the statement said.
In recent weeks, the Syrian government has repeatedly sounded the alarm over soaring coronavirus rates.
In mid-March, intensive care units dedicated to Covid-19 patients in Damascus hospitals reached full capacity, according to the health ministry.
Thursday’s delivery “gives hope for the people in Syria, whose lives have been shattered by a decade of conflict and the devastating impact of the pandemic,” said WHO’s Syria representative, Akjemal Magtymova.
According to the WHO, 912,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been earmarked for Syria in a first phase of vaccination in regime-controlled and in semi-autonomous Kurdish areas.
The aim is to vaccinate 20 percent of the population by year’s end.
“Every health worker who will get vaccinated will be better protected to attend to children’s and families’ health needs,” said Bo Viktor Nylund, UNICEF’s Syria representative.
Officially, government-controlled territories have recorded more than 21,500 Covid-19 cases, including 1,483 deaths.
But the real number of cases could be much higher, according to the UN, mostly due to limited testing.
The Covax scheme launched a push for an extra $2 billion in donations on Thursday, saying it needed the money in advance to reserve Covid-19 vaccine doses.
The Covax facility ensures the 92 poorest participating economies can access coronavirus jabs, with the cost covered by donors.
The United States co-hosted Thursday’s donor event at which the first $400 million was raised.
Sweden led the way, putting in $258 million, with the Netherlands donating $47 million.
“People everywhere should have access to rigorously tested, safe, and effective Covid-19 vaccines,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“As long as Covid is spreading and replicating anywhere, it poses a threat to people everywhere.”
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will host a Covax funding summit focused on the 92 countries in June, it was announced.
“The supply of vaccines and funding are still insufficient, and there is an urgent need to further strengthen the Covax facility to ensure equitable access to safe, effective, and quality-assured vaccines to people in developing countries,” said Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.
Nearly 840 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in at least 205 territories around the world, according to an AFP count.
Covax has delivered more than 38 million doses so far to 113 participating territories.
The first shipment landed in Ghana on February 24, with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo publicly taking the first shot.
Covax is co-led by the WHO, the Gavi vaccine alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
The scheme is aiming to distribute enough doses to vaccinate up to 27 percent of the population in the 92 poorest participating economies by the end of the year.
“We have now secured up to 2.5 billion doses … and sight on another billion doses,” said Gavi chief Seth Berkley.
“You can put advance purchase agreements in place but to do those you have financing available.
“That’s why the up-front money is critical.”
Sweden’s donation made it the largest contributor relative to population.
“This is an investment not only in global solidarity, but also in our common objective of putting an end to the pandemic,” said International Development Minister Per Olsson Fridh.
“Minimising the risk of dangerous virus variants, enabling a quicker economic recovery and minimising the already devastating impact of Covid-19 is in everyone’s best interest,” he said.
The COVAX Facility has now delivered life-saving vaccines to over 100 economies since making its first international delivery to Ghana on 24 February 2021.
So far, more than 38 million doses of vaccines from manufacturers AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Serum Institute of India (SII) have now been delivered, including 61 economies eligible for vaccines through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment.
COVAX aims to supply vaccines to all participating economies that have requested vaccines, in the first half of 2021, despite some delays in planned deliveries for March and April.
More than one hundred economies have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on 24 February 2021.
COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers, AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, and the Serum Institute of India (SII). Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
Despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimizing their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.
“In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached one hundred countries,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
“COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”
“COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “If we are going to realize this great opportunity, countries, producers, and the international system must come together to prioritize vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”
“This is a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19. Faced with the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants, global access to vaccines is fundamentally important to reduce the prevalence of the disease, slow down viral mutation, and hasten the end of the pandemic,” said Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
“The extraordinary scientific achievements of the last year must now be matched by an unprecedented effort to protect the most vulnerable, so the global community must remain firmly focused on reducing the equity gap in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.”
“In just a month and a half, the ambition of granting countries access to COVID vaccines is becoming a reality, thanks to the outstanding work of our partners in the COVAX Facility,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“However, this is no time to celebrate; it is time to accelerate. With variants emerging all over the world, we need to speed up global rollout. To do this, we need governments, along with other partners, to take necessary steps to increase supply, including by simplifying barriers to intellectual property rights, eliminating direct and indirect measures that restrict exports of COVID-19 vaccines, and donating excess vaccine doses as quickly as possible.”
According to its latest supply forecast, COVAX expects to deliver at least 2 billion doses of vaccines in 2021. In order to reach this goal, the COVAX Facility will continue to diversify its portfolio further, and will announce new agreements with vaccine manufacturers in due course.
Furthermore, in March it was announced that the United States government will host the launch event for the 2021 Gavi COVAX AMC Invest Opportunity to catalyze further commitment and support for accelerated access to vaccines for AMC-supported economies.
An additional US$ 2 billion is required in 2021 to finance and secure up to a total of 1.8 billion donor-funded doses of vaccines. COVAX is also working to secure additional sourcing of vaccines in the form of dose-sharing from higher-income countries.
“3.92 million #COVID19 vaccine doses from #COVAX have just arrived in Abuja, Nigeria. This first COVID-19 vaccine shipment to Africa’s most populous nation marks a huge step towards #VaccinEquity. Congratulations #Nigeria!,” WHO said.
See below photos of the vaccines on arrival at the airport in Abuja…
Ghana and its West African neighbour Ivory Coast on Monday became the world’s first states to administer vaccines from Covax, a global scheme to procure free Covid jabs for poorer countries.
Richer nations have surged ahead with inoculating their population, but many poorer countries are still awaiting their first vaccine doses.
“It is important that I set the example that this vaccine is safe by being the first to have it, so that everybody in Ghana can feel comfortable about taking this vaccine,” Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, 76, said before receiving a shot of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in a live broadcast.
The first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo also received a jab, one day before the rest of the 600,000 doses are deployed across the country.
In Ivory Coast a short while later, Patrick Achi, President Alassane Ouattara’s spokesman, was vaccinated in a tent vaccination centre set up in a sports complex in Abidjan, the country’s economic hub.
Getting the jab, said Achi, was a “patriotic duty.”
Vaccination “offers the hope of a return to normal in the coming months,” he said.
Ivorian Health Minister Eugene Aka Ouele said the first batch of 504,000 vaccines would be distributed in the Abidjan area, “the epicentre of the country’s epidemic.”
Members of the armed forces and security services followed Achi in getting their immunisation.
– Covax push –
Ghana’s food and drug authority last month authorised the Indian-made vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V, as the government aims to reach 20 of its 30 million population by year’s end.
Last Wednesday, Ghana was the first country to receive vaccines from Covax, led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
Some 145 participating economies are set to receive 337.2 million doses by mid-year — enough to vaccinate a little over three percent of their combined populations.
Covax has said it hopes to raise the figure to up to 27 percent in lower-income countries by the end of December.
Ghana has recorded 84,023 Covid-19 cases and 607 deaths since the start of the pandemic, although the true figure is believed to be higher because of lack of testing.
Schools reopened in January after a 10-month closure, but large social gatherings are banned and land and sea borders have remained closed since March 2020.
Despite the vaccine roll-out, the president said that all the current restrictions to curb the spread of the virus were to remain in place.
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with around 200 million people is scheduled to receive nearly four million Covax-funded vaccines on Tuesday.
Africa has been relatively spared in the global coronavirus pandemic, although there remain deep concerns about the potential for further surges caused by new variants of the microbe.
The continent of 1.3 billion people has officially recorded 3.9 million cases out of 114 million worldwide, according to an AFP tally. African fatalities number more than 103,000 out of a global 2.53 million.
Outside the Covax initiative, African countries that have launched vaccination drives include Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt.
Germany is donating an additional 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to boost the rollout of vaccines in the world’s poorest countries, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said Friday, increasing an earlier contribution of 600 million euros.
“Today we want to make clear: we stand with the poorest countries. Germany is providing a further 1.5 billion euros for Covax, WHO, and others,” Scholz said in a statement.
“Vaccines are the only way out of the pandemic.”
The move was announced following a virtual G7 meeting at which leaders pledged to move as one in ensuring coronavirus vaccines reach everyone in the world.
Rich countries have come under fire in recent months for hoarding Covid-19 jabs at the expense of poorer countries, despite warnings from health experts that vaccines can only end the pandemic if they are shared out across the globe.
European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen announced earlier on Friday that the bloc was doubling its contribution to the Covax global Covid-19 vaccination programme to one billion euros.
US President Joe Biden was expected to pledge $4 billion in aid to Covax during the virtual meeting with other leaders from the Group of Seven major industrial nations.
Covax is a global project to procure and distribute coronavirus vaccines for at least the most vulnerable 20 percent in every country, allowing poorer states to catch up with the vaccination rush by dozens of wealthy countries.
German Development Minister Gerd Mueller said just 0.5 percent of Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in the world’s poorest countries.
“Only a global vaccination campaign can lead the way out of the pandemic. It must not fail because of financing,” he said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has explained why Nigeria was not included among the countries to receive the Pfizer vaccine in Africa.
Regional Director of the WHO, Matshidiso Moeti, had said only four out of 13 interested African countries were shortlisted to receive the Pfizer vaccines through COVAX, a mechanism backed by WHO for distributing vaccines to the developing world.
Moeti who spoke at a press briefing on COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Africa on Thursday, said the countries are Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa & Tunisia.
She noted that they were picked following evaluations by a multi-agency committee based on current mortality rates, new cases and trends, and the capacity to handle the ultra-cold chain needs of the vaccine.
But speaking during a briefing on Saturday in Abuja, WHO Country Representative, Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu, said the global health body did not disqualify Nigeria for any reason.
He explained that COVAX decided to replace the initial 100,000 doses of Pfizer with 16 million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine.
He stated that issues around population, fatalities from COVID-19 were some of the considerations the Selection Committee used in choosing which country received which vaccine.
Alemu revealed that Nigeria will receive the Pfizer vaccine as supplies increases, adding that the Astrazeneca vaccine, which is more in supply, will meet more of the needs in Nigeria.
In January, the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Babatunde Salako, in an interview with Punch Newspaper, said the country does not have enough freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccines must be stored at the ultra-cold temperature of -70°C.
But days after Salako’s interview, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib gave journalists a tour of the National Strategic Cold Store in Abuja.
During the tour, he said Nigeria has the capacity to store up to 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
After Moeti’s Thursday’s disclosure that Nigeria was not among the countries to receive the Pfizer vaccine, news media reported that Nigeria had been disqualified from the process due to, among other reasons, lack of the required storage capacity.
“WHO is part of Covax facility and can never disqualify a Member State from accessing an approved vaccine for their population,” a WHO representative Kazadi Mulombo, tweeted on Saturday. “I call upon members of the press in Nigeria and globally to contribute to fighting misinformation.”
The WHO and pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer on Friday announced a deal for up to 40 million initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for poorer countries, through Covax global pool.
“I’m glad to announce that Covax has signed an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for up to 40 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine,” World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference in Geneva.
South Africa, the continent’s hardest virus-hit country has missed the initial payment deadline to join the COVAX Covid-19 vaccine distribution scheme, local media reported Thursday.
The country, which accounts for more than a third of Africa’s 2.2 million infections, is expecting to secure its first doses through the World Health Organization initiative to facilitate poor countries’ access to coronavirus vaccines.
Despite Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s announcement last month that the treasury had $33 million (27 million euros) available for vaccines, local online news platform News24 reported that South Africa had missed the first payment window to join COVAX.
The government’s health regulation chief Anban Pillay told the news website that payment was delayed because the department was awaiting approvals from the treasury.