Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, has said efforts are ongoing to ensure the country receives some doses of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in January 2021.
He made this known while responding to questions from journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, on Wednesday.
Mr Ehanire said the country has signed up with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Gavi for access to vaccines immediately they are available.
He, however, did not indicate the quantity Nigeria plans to get at first instance.
“We signed up for advanced market participation in Covax. So, if we will be able to get our own, I think it will be in January,” he said.
He noted that countries, where the vaccines are manufactured, have given themselves the priority to serve their citizens first.
He, however, said there is hope of reserves for other countries that are not manufacturing vaccines.
Amidst the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, many countries are already on the queue to access effective vaccines for its citizens.
Countries like Israel and Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, have already received their first batches of vaccines and ready to administer to their citizens. Vaccines are already being administered in the U.S. which became the first country to administer the Pfizer vaccine on its citizens.
The Nigerian government had earlier inaugurated an 18-member national COVID-19 task team to ensure ‘vaccine security’ when it finally gets to the country.
The team is also expected to generate strategies for acquisition, deployment and options for licenced production of the vaccines.
Mr Ehanire said the type of vaccines to be purchased depends on its cost, effectiveness and the availability of its storage requirements.
He said some of the approved vaccines require certain storage equipment which the country lacks at the moment.
He noted that some of the vaccines need to be stored in ultra cold freezers which will mean more costs for the country.
“The one that will be in regulator refrigerators is easy. We have them here. The one that will be in Minus 20 refrigerators is also going to be possible because we also have the freezers here but the one that will be in ultra cold freezers, we hardly have ultra cold freezers in this country and to receive and store in those ultra cold freezers will require that you purchase the ultra cold freezers.
“That means we must be able to get the vaccines that work well, with good cost of storage and cost of delivery. That is the one we will like to get as soon as they are available,” he said.
Mr Ehanire explained that there are ongoing bilateral discussions with various manufacturers in the United Arab Emirates and other countries.
He said this is to explore different possible opportunities to ensure Nigerians have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are working with them because if we cannot get enough from one source, we should be able to get from other sources. So, we are looking at multiple sources,” he said.
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