Nigeria Struggles to Gather Enough Vaccines for its Massive Population

Image sourced from Gallo Images.

Yesterday, Nigeria received another 3.6-million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from the United States. The second major shipment of vaccines the country has imported in the last 2 months, having received 4-million Moderna jabs from the US in August.

This latest shipment arrived on Thursday at the airport in Abuja, according to Reuters, two weeks after the head of Nigeria’s Primary Health Care Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, confirmed the country would receive the 3.57-million Pfizer doses.

After its August shipment from Moderna, and its initial shipment of 4 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from Mumbai, India under the COVAX vaccine sharing facility, this latest shipment marks the third huge round of vaccines the country is giving to its massive population.

Together with the 501,600 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from the French government it received last week and 434,400 additional doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine from the African Union (AU), Nigeria has managed to collect 12.5-million jabs from international sources. A number that is still dwarfed by the 206-million people living in the country today.

Nigeria’s Federal Government has been exploring new options to acquire or purchase more vaccines through the COVAX facility in attempts to inoculate at least 70% of its population – which is still around 144-million human beings.

Only about 2.3% of Nigerians or around 2.54-million have been fully vaccinated as of Thursday, while 4.7% of the population have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

In August, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that around 250-million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were expected to be donated through the COVAX facility “within the next six to eight weeks.” Of those, the US was expected to deliver 80-million vaccines.

The country is yet to see such a number of jabs being delivered.

Nigeria has so far recorded 208,404 confirmed infections and 2,761 deaths from the virus, a generally low level of infections in the continent where countries like Egypt and South Africa have seen case numbers in the millions.

Nigeria is considered an African country with a low risk of importation of the disease from overseas countries, while nations like South Africa are considered high risk due to differences in international travels.

This may be a factor of why Nigeria has managed to keep its case load so low despite its large population. Other factors include Nigeria’s generally young population, as well as the amount and pervasiveness of COVID-19 testing taking place.

The concern is that a new variant could cause a significant outbreak in the country, similar to what occurred in India earlier this year. The Delta variant wreaked havoc across India, decimating a swathe of the population and bringing its COVID-19 death toll to over 450,000.

When all is said and done, the push to inoculate Africa’s most populous country will mark a monstrous effort and a monstrous amount of money spent.

By Luis Monzon
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