The Federal Government is painstakingly exploring multiple sources and cheaper but effective COVID-19 vaccines.
Chairman, Technical Working Group for the therapy, Dr. Bassey Okposen, who dropped the hint in Abuja, said besides the COVAX facility spearheaded by Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) where 92 countries, including Nigeria, are eligible for support, attention is still being focused on other pharmaceuticals around the world.
He added that Nigeria was in touch with the governments of Russia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) for supplies. Okposen, who doubles as Director, Disease Control and Immunisation at the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), said: “These are opinions that we are exploring.
‘If we want to buy as a country, it should be vaccines that have been tested, effective and not very expensive. Some of them are very expensive. The Moderna is about $33 per dose, and one person needs two doses. So, you know what that means when you multiply by the population. It will amount to billions of naira.
“The other protein vector virus vaccines would be of advantage considering that the cold chain storage requires 228 which is what our routine vaccine cold chain storage requirement is, and it makes for easier maintenance aside affordability. Something like AstraZeneca costs about $4 per dose. So, for the two doses, it will be about $8.”
He continued: “But if you are going for mRNA vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer, you are looking for minus 70 Degree Celcius cold chain and the prices are high. But for those very high-risk health workers, we are targeting that supply from GAVI and then, we will acquire some cold chain space to make sure they are properly kept for sustainability. But for the larger volume, we will be preferring something like AstraZeneca where the storage temperature is like the one we are using for our routine vaccines.
“So, efforts are on to see that as soon as vaccines are allocated for the COVAX facility, Nigeria is among the first countries to benefit, while following up on other alternative sources to bridge the gaps.”
The chairman explained that for 2021, the COVAX-GAVI partnership would supply 20 per cent of the population requirements of all eligible 92 nations, while the Nigerian government was aiming to buy at least 20 per cent of the treatment to achieve 40 per cent reach even as additional 20 per cent would be procured for 2022.
Okposen suggested that government had concluded plans to roll out about 84 million doses next month, adding that his team was perfecting things to ensure swift and wide distribution when the time comes.
“The Technical Working Group has been inaugurated, and they meet every Wednesday. We are targeting to introduce the vaccine by January 2021. We have had series of meetings with the GAVI team,” he added.
The director further stated: “NPHCDA, being the agency in charge of vaccines in the country, traditionally, has the New Vaccine Introduction Strategic Team, and usually, whenever there is any new vaccine to introduce, the team reviews the guidelines.
“The New Vaccine Introduction Strategic Team that we have was further expanded to bring in all stakeholders. We have the Federal Ministry of Health, NPHCDA, NAFDAC, NCDC, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, NOA and the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning.
“We also have donors and partners. The donors include GAVI, World Bank, CDC, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID. The partners are WHO, UNICEF, among others.”
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