With the approval of the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, and Mordena Inc., mass vaccinations have since commenced in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Pfizer’s vaccine was authorized on the 12th of December, 2020, and the Moderna version on the 18th of December, 2020.
The industrialised and emerging countries are rapidly securing massive doses of the vaccines for their own populations, such that there may not be enough vaccines left for others.
Already, the European Union is perfecting strategies to ensure that all its member countries get enough doses of the vaccines for their citizens even as the Asian-Pacific countries are cautiously rolling out the vaccines.
However, several African countries are not likely to begin COVID-19 vaccinations until the second or third quarter of 2021.
In the wake of the rollout of effective COVID-19 vaccines in the US, and Europe many African countries – Nigeria inclusive – remain uncertain about the way to go.
Findings by Good Health Weekly reveal that African countries are largely unprepared for the exercise, even as they generally lack the necessary logistics such as supply chain, cold chain requirements, and demand generation activities for large-scale administration of the vaccines.
The continent has not developed reliable home-grown modalities either to receive and distribute the vaccines or conduct public enlightenment to facilitate immunisation.
Currently, many African countries lack robust routine immunisation frameworks and services that are required to successfully carry out COVID-19 vaccination.
As things stand, the continent’s hopes of receiving the vaccines are hinged on the global COVAX initiative – a World Health Organisation, WHO, agenda to coordinate vaccine roll-out for the world’s poorest countries through pooled bargaining.
Many African countries are not rich enough to purchase enough doses of the vaccines for their people. COVAX was set up to enable 46 African countries to surmount this financial constraint, by helping to secure up to two billion vaccine doses by end of 2021.
Under COVAX, Africa is aiming to secure 1.5 billion vaccine doses to vaccinate 60 percent of its 1.3 billion people and attain herd immunity, at an estimated cost of at least $7 billion.
Nigeria expects to receive its first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021 according to the Minister for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire who explained that there is a working group handling the procurement in collaboration with the COVAX programme backed by the World Health Organization.
Apart from the confirmation that an estimated N400 billion would be required to carry out the immunisation exercise in the country, not much is known about Nigeria’s plan to acquire the COVID-19 vaccines or the strategy that would be utilised to immunise Nigerians
At present, Nigeria does not have adequate facilities for the storage of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which must be chilled at minus 70 degrees Celsius. There are more challenges. Based on past and current debates on COVID trials in Africa, and debates around vaccines in general, there is the anticipation of resistance to the vaccination exercise across the continent.
Except there is a turnaround, African countries may not in any time soon, receive enough doses of the vaccines to achieve herd immunity.
Granted that it will take a while to make and distribute enough of the vaccines to go around, African countries need to be more involved in clinical trials while prioritising funding for the primary healthcare sector which remains the bedrock for vaccination and disease control.
Vanguard News Nigeria