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Nigeria starts virus vaccine roll-out

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Dr. Ngong Cyprian (L), the first Nigerian to receive the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at the National Hospital Abuja, Nigeria on March 5, 2021. – The Nigerian Government begins its roll-out of nearly 4 million of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in Nigeria. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

A doctor has on Friday become the first person in Nigeria to receive a coronavirus jab as Africa’s most populous country began its vaccine campaign in the capital Abuja.

Nigeria received 3.94 million Oxford/AstraZeneca doses on Tuesday, joining other countries in Africa to get the shots through Covax, a global scheme to provide free inoculations.

“Vaccine supply has been a source of global frustration, but the logjam is starting to break which is great news,” Faisal Shuaib, director of Nigeria’s primary health care agency (NPHCDA) said in a statement.

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Nigeria decided to start vaccinations with frontline workers and support staff.

“Our frontline workers deserve the same protection as their peers in Europe and North America and that’s our priority for phase one,” Shuaib said.

The president and vice president are due to receive a shot on Saturday, government spokesman Garba Shehu told AFP.

The vaccines made by the Serum Institute of India are the first of 16 million shots that Covax plans to deliver to the country over the coming months.

Nigeria said it aimed to inoculate 70 percent of its adult population of 200 million people over the next two years.

A self-registration portal online was launched to try ease the roll-out but the country faces immense security and logistics challenges.

“Our teams have done an enormous amount of work to prepare for vaccine arrival… we know how to do this,” Shuaib said, adding the country had “recent experience in successful, large-scale vaccination against polio which included overcoming infrastructure and logistics challenges, as well as hesitancy sentiments.”

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The West African country has recorded 157,671 cases and 1,951 deaths since the start of the pandemic, though the figures are considered underestimated given the low number of tests administered.

A new virus variant has also been discovered in Nigeria, but researchers have not yet determined if it is more contagious or deadly than the original strain.

Richer countries have surged ahead with vaccinations, but many poorer countries are still awaiting deliveries, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to warn that the crisis cannot end unless everyone can inoculate their populations.

The Covax facility, an initiative led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) with UNICEF as implementing partner, aims to deliver two billion doses by the end of the year.

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