President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo are expected to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses on Saturday.
Nigeria on Tuesday took delivery of 3.9 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, the first batch of the 16 million expected through the World Health Organisation-led COVAX facility.
The government is expecting 129 million vaccine doses to vaccinate 70 per cent of its population within two years.
The consignment was received through the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja aboard Emirates Airlines.
The vaccine will be administered in two doses.
At the end of Tuesday’s ceremonies to mark its arrival, a few vials of the vaccines were expected to be handed over to the National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) team for analysis between today and tomorrow.
Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said: “Further to the clearance by NAFDAC, the PTF, FMOH and NPHCDA, strategic leaders will be at the treatment centre of the National Hospital on Friday, where the first vaccination site will be set up to commence the vaccination of frontline health workers and support staff. On Saturday, key strategic leaders will receive the first dose of the vaccine.
“On Monday, more vaccination sites would have been set up at designated locations such as National Assembly clinic, State House clinic and Federal medical centre, Jabi, where leaders such as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Attorney General of the Federation, Inspector General of Police, the Ministers and Ministers of States, Senators, House of Representatives, traditional leaders and religious leaders will be vaccinated.
“Vaccine distribution to the States for the first phase vaccination process will begin.
Working with CACOVID, plans are on ground for a cargo plane provided by them to transport the vaccines to the States by air. States without a functional airport will have their vaccines transported by road using vans with fitted Cold Cabins, from the nearest airport. The vaccines will be stored at the State Cold Stores, from where they will be transported by road to local government council Cold Stores
“Once activities have commenced in the States, there would be strict monitoring by PTF, FMOH, NPHCDA and independent bodies such as EFCC, DSS, ICPC, and Civil Society Organisations. States/health facilities/health workers that are identified as defaulting from the standard protocol and guidelines for this phase of vaccination would be sanctioned.
“While the first phase is ongoing, the National team would be ready for the arrival of the next batch of vaccines which would be used for the next phase of vaccination. Phase 2 vaccination process involves vaccination of the elderly from 50 years and above. This has been sub grouped into 2, with the vaccination of 60 and above occurring first followed by 50 – 59 years.
This will occur across all 36 States and the FCT. Those who are eligible for vaccination that have not registered electronically, would be assisted at the designated health facility and would be vaccinated.
Chairman of the PTF Boss Mustapha, Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister for Information Lai Mohammed, Dr. Shuaib, NAFDAC Director-General Dr. Mojisola Adeyeye, NCDC Director-General Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, ambassadors and development partners received the consignment.
Dr Ehanire said: “I believe that this is the beginning of our journey towards eliminating covid-19 from our country. We assure you that the due process will be done; there will be equitable use and also free distribution and application to all parts of the country according to the protocols that have been worked out, following the guidelines of the World Health organization (WHO).
The United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said the arrival of the vaccines marked a major milestone for the COVAX Facility.
“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,” he said.
Kallon said that the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine would enable the NPHCDA to commence the vaccination of Nigerians in priority groups, starting with frontline healthcare workers.
The Managing Director for Country Programmes at Gavi, Thabani Maphosa: “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,” Maphosa said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Walter Mulombo, said the agency congratulate the government of Nigeria for its participation in COVAX efforts and its commitment to protecting Nigerians against this pandemic.
An additional 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines donated by telecom giant, MTN, will be delivered by end of the month.
The United States, United Kingdom, Germany, European Union and India hailed the arrival of the vaccines.
United States said: “The U.S. joins in welcoming arrival of the COVID19 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 further said it contributed $2 billion to COVAX with another $1.5 billion promised.
“We must work to finance health security; strengthen global health systems and create early warning systems to prevent, detect and respond to future biological threats because they will keep coming,” the United States also said.
UK said 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 in Abuja by the Head of Communications, British High Commission, Abuja, Dean Hurlock, the UK said it galvanised the efforts because it wanted to be a force for good in the world.
The EU, in a statement on its Facebook page, said it was the lead contributor to the COVAX scheme.
The German government, in a message on its Facebook page, 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. The aim of COVAX is to distribute two billion vaccine doses in 2021, in order to vaccinate the most vulnerable 20 percent of the global population – first of all: healthcare workers and risk groups.”
By Bola Olajuwon, Moses Emorinken, Vincent Ikuomola and Bolaji Ogundele