The Federal Government of Nigeria has ordered a suspension of the administering of the COVID-19 vaccines across the country telling all the states in the country to immediately put a stop to it once they have reached half of the doses delivered to them.
This directive was issued by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, with the Director of the NPHCDA Dr Faisal Shuaibu, explaining that the directive was given so as to enable those who had received the first jab to complete their vaccination.
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The new directive implies that any state which received say 100,000 doses will have to stop rolling out vaccination once it hits 50,000 persons vaccinated first so that the same number can go around for the second jab.
The move is said to be necessary due to a possible delay in the supply of the next batch of the AstraZeneca vaccines, which could affect the availability of the vaccine for the second round of the exercise.
There have been a surge in the demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine by the European Union, and this has caused a shortage of the vaccine in the international market.
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A new policy by India, the manufacturer of the vaccine, to prioritise domestic vaccination for its over 1.2 billion population has also contributed to the shortage of the vaccine in countries like Nigeria.
Confirming the imminent suspension of the vaccination exercise, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora told Punch that states were asked to stop the COVID-19 Vaccination exercise halfway until more vaccines arrive.
He said that is the smartest thing to do since it is a double-dose vaccine.
“On the issue of stopping at half doses, we thought this is what wisdom dictates because in a situation where we seem to be in short supply, it stands to good reason to ensure that those who have had their first dose should be given the opportunity of having the second dose.
“It is better to have a pool of people who have received full vaccination rather than just do it halfway for everybody, which I think would not be the best in the circumstance. And you are not really covered if you have your full dosage,” Mamora said.
When asked when Nigerians should expect more vaccines, the minister said he could not say because it is currently a ‘sellers’ market’, Punch reports.
He, however, disclosed that Nigeria has started talking to other countries like Russia, which produces the Sputnik V vaccine.
He said, “The truth is there is a challenge. However, we are not hopeless. The COVAX facility is not the only one we rely on. There is also AVATT, the regional facility which is the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. So, we definitely will be looking to AVATT to help increase the initial allocation in the circumstances with what is happening vis-a-vis production and supply from India.”
“Both AVATT and COVAX are multilateral facilitators, but we also have bilateral negotiations. For example, Sputnik is bilateral in the sense that it is government to government. Sputnik is Russian and as soon as we have the dossier and approval from NAFDAC, then we will consider it.”
The minister added that the Federal Government might have to increase its budget for COVID-19 vaccines since AstraZeneca, which is the cheapest in the market, is not readily available.
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