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Nigeria misses out as 15 African nations hit 10% COVID-19 vaccination target

By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos) and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja)
01 October 2021   |   3:15 am
Having vaccinated roughly four per cent of its population, Nigeria is missing out, as 15 African countries, approximately a third of the continent

FG unveils national vaccine, drug policies

Having vaccinated roughly four per cent of its population, Nigeria is missing out, as 15 African countries, approximately a third of the continent’s 54 nations, have fully immunised 10 per cent of their people against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global goal of vaccinating 10 per cent of every country’s population by September 30 was set in May by the World Health Assembly (WHA). Almost 90 per cent of high-income nations have met the target.

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), over the weekend, said only 4,680,000 Nigerians had been vaccinated against the virus, representing 2.34 per cent of a population of 200 million persons.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa, yesterday, during a virtual press conference on COVID-19 vaccination on the continent, attended by The Guardian, said nine nations, including South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia, had crossed the 10 per cent threshold since the beginning of September, with six others managing to hit the target due to rising vaccine deliveries.

The Immunisation and Vaccines Development Programme Coordinator, Dr. Richard Mihigo, said 23 million jabs had arrived on the continent, a ten-fold increase from June. Yet, only 60 million Africans have been comprehensively inoculated, with two per cent of the more than six billion doses donated globally administered in Africa.

He said Seychelles and Mauritius have fully immunised over 60 per cent of their populations, Morocco 48 per cent and Tunisia, Comoros and Cape Verde covering over 20 per cent. Most of the compliant African countries have a relatively small populace and 40 per cent are Island states.

Dr. Pamela Smith-Lawrence, Acting Director, Health Services, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Botswana and Mrs. Fortunate Bhembe, Deputy Director of Pharmaceutical Services, Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Eswatini joined Mihigo, as well as Dr. Fiona Braka, Team Lead, Emergency Operations, WHO Regional Office for Africa and Dr. Thierno Balde, Regional COVID-19 Deputy Incident Manager, were available to handle questions.

According to the global health agency, “all these countries have enjoyed sufficient supplies of vaccines, and many could access doses from separate sources in addition to those delivered through the COVAX facility, the global platform to ensure equitable access to vaccines.”

It noted that half of the 52 African countries that have received the vaccines had only vaccinated just two per cent or less of their populations.

Mihigo submitted: “The latest data show modest gains, but there is still a long way to go to reach the WHO target of fully vaccinating 40 per cent of the population by the end of the year. Shipments are increasing but opaque delivery plans are still the number one nuisance that holds Africa back.”

SIMILARLY, the Federal Government has launched a National Vaccine Policy to regulate a supportive environment for access and use of vaccines, as well as set requirements and mandates for the protection of citizens from internal and external harms.

The document would also strengthen the development, local production, efficient and rational use of vaccines in Nigeria to achieve vaccine security.

The government also unveiled a national drug policy to increase the vibrancy of the pharmaceuticals sector for overall improvement of people’s health and make available at all times to the Nigerian populace adequate supplies of drugs that are effective, affordable, safe and of good quality.

Speaking at the launch of the policy documents yesterday in Abuja, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, submitted that the ongoing global efforts to develop COVID-19 vaccines have further provided a strong justification for enacting a Nigeria Vaccine Policy in the interest of achieving medical security in Nigeria.