Nigeria on Tuesday received nearly 4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, shipped via the COVAX Facility, a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO.
The arrival marked a historic step towards the goal to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. The delivery is part of a first wave of arrivals in Nigeria that will continue in the coming days and weeks.
COVAX shipped 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), from Mumbai to Abuja.
“The UN Country Team in Nigeria reiterates its commitment to support the vaccination campaign in Nigeria and help contain the spread of the virus,” said Edward Kallon, UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria. “The arrival of these vaccines in Abuja today marks a milestone for the COVAX Facility in its unprecedented effort to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines globally by the end of 2021.”
The arrival of the CIVID-19 vaccine will enable the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to commence the vaccination of Nigerians in priority groups, starting with frontline healthcare workers.
“This is a landmark moment for the country and the COVAX Facility’s mission to help end the acute phase of the pandemic by enabling equitable access to these vaccines across the world. We are glad to see Nigeria is amongst the first receiving the doses from COVAX, thanks to the excellent level of preparedness put in place by the Government of Nigeria,” said Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director for Country Programmes at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Gavi looks forward to these vaccines being made available to the people most at risk, as soon as possible, and to ensuring that routine immunization services for other life-threatening infections are also delivered to avoid other disease outbreaks.”
WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo said: “It is heart-warming to witness this epoch-making event and WHO wishes to congratulate the government of Nigeria for its participation in the global vaccine collaboration (COVAX) efforts and its commitment to protecting Nigerians against this pandemic. Vaccines are a critical new tool in the battle against COVID-19; therefore, this is a step in the right direction. These vaccines have undergone rigorous regulatory processes at global and country level and have been deemed safe and effective.”
The COVAX Facility is expected to deliver around 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the African Region in the first quarter of 2021 and has committed to providing up to 600 million doses to the region by end-2021 to cover 20 per cent of the population.
“After a year of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, today we celebrate the efforts being made in getting the vaccine to Nigeria. With more than 150,000 Nigerians infected with the virus and over 1,800 lives lost, the path to recovery for the people of Nigeria can finally begin,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative.
“This is a very significant occasion - the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines into Nigeria is critical in curbing the pandemic. The only way out of this crisis is to ensure that vaccinations are available to all.”
The COVAX Facility thanks the governments, foundation and other donors who contributed to making this milestone happen – including the generous support of the European Commission, countries of the European Union, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
For several months, COVAX partners have been supporting governments and partners in readiness efforts, in preparation for this moment. They have been especially active in working with some of the world’s poorest countries: those that will benefit from the Advance Market Commitment (AMC), an innovative financial mechanism to help secure global and equitable access for COVID-19 vaccines. This includes assisting with the development of national vaccination plans, support for cold chain infrastructure, as well as stockpiling of half a billion syringes and safety boxes for their disposal, masks, gloves and other equipment to ensure that there is enough equipment for health workers to start vaccinating priority groups as soon as possible.
In order for doses to be delivered to COVAX Facility participants via this first allocation round, several critical pieces must be in place, including confirmation of national regulatory authorisation criteria related to the vaccines delivered, indemnification agreements, national vaccination plans from AMC participants, as well as other logistical factors such as export and import licenses.
As participants fulfil the above criteria and finalise readiness preparations, COVAX issues purchase orders to the manufacturer and ships and delivers doses via an iterative process. This means deliveries for the first round of allocation are taking place on a rolling basis and in tranches.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF, the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others. COVAX is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
COVAX has built a diverse portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations, and is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX Facility participants supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC.