Nigeria may have to wait till August to receive the 29.5 million doses of Johnson & Johnson it is expecting through the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust even as the COVID-19 pandemic in India has continued to affect the worldwide supply of vaccines.
The Nigerian Government had last week released N29.1bn for the purchase of Johnson & Johnson vaccines through the AVAT initiative coordinated by the Afreximbank.
The move was expected to alleviate the effect of the scarcity of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines caused by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
As the south Asian country buckles under a deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and hospitals in the country running out of beds and oxygen supplies, an average of 3,500 deaths and 400,000 infections are being recorded daily.
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The Indian COVID-19 strain, B.1.617, has also been identified in Nigeria, according to a notification dated April 25, 2021, sent by Professor Christian Hapi of the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Redeemers University, Ede, Osun State to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
“We have found five sequences of the India B.1.617 in the country, specifically in Edo and Osun states,” the notification read.
Although research showed that so far, the strain had not displayed the same kind of viciousness as in India, the Federal Government on Monday restricted gatherings at worship centres and banned nightclubs, among others.
Meanwhile, on May 9 World Health Organisation (WHO) that the B.1.351 variant of the coronavirus, first found in South Africa, was spreading in 23 African countries, including three of Nigeria’s neighbours, Ghana, Togo, and Cameroon.
With regards to this, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and some health experts had called for caution among Nigerians and the Federal Government, pending when the majority of the population would be vaccinated.
Speaking during a Joint meeting of the African Union Ministers of Health earlier in the week, the Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, said the vaccines might arrive in late July or August or even later because of the Indian situation.
“For delivery date of AVAT (Johnson & Johnson vaccines), you can be sure that it will be at the beginning of the third quarter, which will be at the end of July or beginning of August. We are working hard to see if we can accelerate that delivery timeline, but nothing is really guaranteed,” he said.
He called on all African nations to submit their formal requests for the purchase of the vaccines.
Nkengasong said Africa was expected to get at least 220 million doses through the AVAT facility, adding that the Afreximbank had agreed to underwrite $2bn.
“We as the African Union have secured signed contracts for up to 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with an option of increasing that to about 400 million. It is my strong appeal to all member states that they should go through the AVAT platform and secure these vaccines,” the CDC director said.
Nkengasong said he hoped that more vaccines would be able to arrive through the COVAX facility driven by the World Health Organisation.
He, however, noted that the Indian situation had made things unpredictable.
“The vaccine situation is extremely complex because of the situation in India. We are hoping that through the COVAX facility, we would get more vaccines from India, but we are all watching in total horror and disbelief what is going on in India and we don’t expect vaccines to be shipped out of India anytime soon, but we remain optimistic that through the COVAX facility, other avenues for vaccines would be secured,” he said.