South Africa has become the first African country ahead of Nigeria and others to broker a business deal to manufacture the Johnson and Johnson variant of Covid-19 vaccine on the continent.
The news came just as Nigeria formally took delivery of the 177,600 doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines procured through the African Union collaborative venture with the AfriExim Bank.
This was disclosed by representative of the Africa Center for Disease Control (CDC), Dr Amadou Cheick Tidiane Cissé, at the event to mark the formal delivery of the 177,600 doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine to the National Strategic Cold Store, located near the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja on Monday.
Cissé, who was asked to give more details on the procurement of the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine said, “the first batch of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was manufactured in the United States while subsequent doses will be manufactured in South Africa. Africa CDC encourages other African countries to try and manufacture Covid-19 vaccines, because it is very important in the campaign against the Covid-19 virus”.
He also 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.
Cissé noted that the vaccines would help to save African lives and livelihoods and helpresume their ways towards the continental development agenda.
According to him, “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.”
World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, also commended the federal government, including the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC), Federal Ministry of Health and NPHCDA for the successful completion of the first phase of the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out with the vaccination of the front-line workers and other priority groups, who are at high risk of Covid-19.
Mulombo said in terms of the quality and efficiency of the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, Nigeria was rated the fourth in the world.
“Today, we are witnessing the symbolic arrival of 177,600 Johnson & Johnson vaccines, another landmark event in Nigeria’s response to Covid-19 pandemic, widely acclaimed by many as one of the most successful so far.
“WHO had on many occasions, commended the Government, including the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC), FMOH and NPHCDA for the successful completion of the first phase of the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out with the vaccination of the front-line workers and other priority groups, who are at high risk of Covid-19,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria’s preparation for the second phase of the Covid-19 vaccination,which involved more resources and logistics, was highly commendable.
He also commended a multi-sectorial approach adopted at the different level of the government to address issues around Covid-19 vaccine hesitancies.
Mulombo also spoke on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines saying it would be the game-changer, “But for the foreseeable future, we must continue wearing masks, physically distance and avoid crowds.
“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 maximised to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on our lives.
He assured the people that WHO would continue to support the country in reaching its targeted population with Safe and effective vaccines.
Speaking while inspecting the first shipment of 177,600 of Johnson and Johnson vaccines doses From African Union, a single-shot vaccines under the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), Executive Director of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said Nigeria was among the first ten African countries to receive vaccines through the partnership and to benefit from a supply deal agreed in March, 2021 to procure 220 million doses for the continent, with the potential to order another 180 million.
Shuaib said contrary to insinuations, the single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson was highly effective in preventing severe illness and death from the Delta and Beta variants of the coronavirus data obtained from a clinical trial in South Africa suggest.
Shuaib said 177, 600 doses would step up efforts to battle a third wave of infections across the country, noting that the single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, was the first of its monthly supplies under an arrangement with AU nations.
“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 through the facility provided by African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK).
“The balance of the vaccine will subsequently be delivered in monthly tranches. This batch of Johnson and Johnson 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.
“This is because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is administered as a single dose vaccine unlike the AstraZeneca and Moderna that require two doses for complete vaccination,” the ED NPHCDA said.
Also, representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, Dr. Peter Hawkins, said Covid-19 vaccines were the most important tool the world have against Covid-19.
Hawkins assured Nigerians that vaccination would provide better protection than natural immunity for adults previously infected with Covid-19, from getting re-infection.
He disclosed that the country was expected to receive another shipment of Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine doses by next week.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja