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Growing concerns as Nigeria pivots from AstraZeneca to J&J COVID-19 vaccine

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There are growing concerns about the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine efficacy against coronavirus and its side effects.

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US health agencies Tuesday recommended an immediate pause in the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, according to a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) statement released Tuesday.

“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said in the joint statement.

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The FDA said six vaccine recipients developed rare blood clots within about two weeks of being inoculated.

The recommendation, made in tandem with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), means that federal vaccine distribution channels, including mass vaccination sites, will pause the use of the single-shot vaccine.

This is coming after the Nigerian government has quietly ditched the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and gradually shifted to Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine, saying it is easier to administer.

Nigerian Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) in March said Nigeria intended to begin rolling out the J&J vaccine to almost 30 million people as soon as it can obtain the vaccine supplies.

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“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to get up to 70 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson this year. This is yet to be finalised but these are some of the advanced conversations that are going on between Nigeria and the African Union,” he said during an interview in the capital, Abuja,” said NPHCDA boss Faisal Shuaib

Nigeria previously said it had applied for 41 million doses of vaccines through the AU, comprising of Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson shots. But Shuaib said the proportion of AstraZenca doses was likely to be reduced by the delays.

“Some of the allocations that we were supposed to get for the AstraZeneca will be replaced by the Johnson and Johnson.”

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Nigeria’s reduction in its demand for AstraZeneca comes amidst growing global concerns about AstraZeneca’s efficacy against the SARS-CoV2 virus variant first identified in South Africa, as well as safety concerns that led to the suspension of AstraZeneca in many countries including Germany, Denmark, Iceland, and South Africa.

Nigeria had already commenced the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with vaccines supplied by the WHO co-sponsored COVAX initiative.

Shuaib said there was no evidence of adverse side effects in Nigeria and that the AstraZeneca vaccine would continue to be used for eligible people aged 18 and above.

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