There are concerns over whether the Nigerian government can purchase sufficient coronavirus vaccines for its population and as well whether these vaccines will be available for the West African nation.
The US, Britain, and Canada are already rolling up their sleeves to receive billions of coronavirus vaccines, with the route out of the pandemic now appearing to be very clear to many in the West, even if the rollout will take many months.
But for poorer countries, the road will be far longer and rougher.
Iorhen Akase, the Head of the Infectious Disease Unit of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital told ARISE News that “we know that the commodity available now is way below the demand, and we know that countries like the US, UK Canada have booked over 4 billion doses of vaccine and those contracts are already in place.
“So it depends on the company the Nigerian government is talking to, whether it’s Pfizer or AstraZeneca or Mordena and e ven if the Nigerian government has money now to give to these companies, it depends on the availability of the vaccines and whether those companies have fulfilled their contractual obligations to the other countries that have paid them already.”
The ambitious initiative known as COVAX created to ensure the entire world has access to COVID-19 vaccines has secured only a fraction of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year, has yet to confirm any actual deals to ship out vaccines, and is short on cash.
The virus that has killed more than 1.6 million people has exposed vast inequities between countries, as fragile health systems and smaller economies were often hit harder.
The Nigerian minister of health Osagie Ehanire told citizens yesterday they will receive the coronavirus vaccine by January 2021, noting that a technical working group in the ministry is working on which vaccine will best suit Nigeria, considering that the country has no -80 degrees freezers.
But Akase, however, has reservations as to the practicability of the vaccines being available by January 2021 and also spoke about the priority groups.
He said: “We must realise that even when vaccines come into the country, there are what they call priority groups, you know its not a vaccine you can just go over the counter and buy and take for yourself. Countries are distributing vaccines based on priority groups and for most countries those who are on the priority groups are those who are on the frontlines, these are healthcare workers, social workers and in some countries they include security personnel, they are priority number one.
“Priority number two are those considered to be most vulnerable, that’s those elderly people more than 65-years and those who have commonalities and puts them at risk of severe disease and in most countries until these two categories of people have been taken care of, ordinary citizens can’t be attended to.
“So when the minister (of health) said end of January, you must remember that the 20% COVAX is going to cover for the vulnerable population is a long term, so it’s going to take years, in fact, it’s anticipated that it’s going to be 2022 or 2023 before we start seeing reasonable coverages across the wider population.
“At the end of January, we have to put that into context so that people understand what the minister was talking about and it’s not entirely dependent on the country, its not entirely dependent on whether we have money or not, its dependent on how much vaccines are available and what those companies are able to provide when they need to.”
By Abel Ejikeme