Our Correspondent

Daily Courier – The Federal Government yesterday received 2 million doses of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines from the European Union (EU).

The vaccines, which were donated by Finland, Greece and Slovenia, are part of the total donation of almost 20 million of J&J doses from EU member states to Nigeria, via COVAX.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) a few weeks ago stated that the Federal Government had spent $298 million for the procurement of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines, amounting to about 39 million doses.

The Federal Government, however, urged all stakeholders at the state and local government levels to intensify efforts to ensure that more Nigerians get their first and second dose of the vaccines.

It further stated that although the country now vaccinates 200,000 eligible populations daily, in order to reach the target of vaccinating 112 million Nigerians by the end of the year, 550,000 eligible Nigerians need to be vaccinated daily.

Speaking during the official handover ceremony of the vaccine doses in Abuja, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said: “You may all recall that the Federal Government had earlier in 2021 procured about 39,850,000 of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine from the Afrexim bank through the African Union.

“With today’s donation of 1,936,050 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine through the European Union, we also have a stock of about 10 million doses of the vaccines that have been donated through COVAX. The total number of doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine available to Nigeria is about 51m doses. At the moment, Nigeria currently has in country 12,916,450 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

“This is a very safe and efficacious vaccine that we use as a single dose vaccine, and the opportunity exists for a booster dose. But for those hard-to-reach areas, this is a vaccine that is going to be very critical. The onus is now upon us to make rational and effective use of these vaccines.

“We will be focusing the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccines in the hard-to-reach areas, riverine areas, desert areas and security compromised areas. This is because we want to seize the opportunity of a single dose vaccination to reach these populations at the earliest opportunities and not worry about the fact that we have to go multiple times. The next time we will be going will be to give booster doses.

“I am glad to inform you that we have now vaccinated 15,792,392 Nigerians with the first dose, which is about 14.1 per cent of the total number of eligible people that we have targeted with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. It also means that the lag that we have experienced with the second dose will now be rapidly eliminated because by the time we give one dose, that is sought of counted as full vaccination for the individual.

We are very mindful of the challenges that exist, especially in places in the South East where practically all the states are still lagging behind in terms of reaching their populations. We have re-strategised on how to reach more states and communities to enhance uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine. We are also doing the integration with routine immunisation vaccines.

“For Nigeria to be able to reach 112 million Nigerians by the end of 2022, then, we need to be vaccinating as much as 550,000 people on a daily basis. Right now, we are at 200,000 people per day. We have to double up our efforts as vaccine availability is no longer our challenge.”

In her remarks, the EU Ambassador, Samuela Isopi said: “Today’s donation brings us collectively closer to reaching the milestone of 500 million doses delivered by COVAX, with 300 million donated by Team Europe, an achievement which is worth celebrating today.

“The European Union is so far the biggest donor of COVID-19 vaccines in the world. To date, Team Europe has mobilised at least EUR 38.5 billion, of which €8 billion for the African continent.

Vaccine’s efficacy, by WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it listed the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine for emergency use on March 12, 2021, adding that at 28 days after inoculation, the vaccine was found to have an efficacy of 85.4% against critical illness and 93.1 % against hospitalization.

Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, made the disclosure at the formal handing over of two million doses of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine.

Mulombo added that the vaccine is also safe and effective in people with known medical conditions associated with increased risk of severe disease, such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, significant cardiac disease, obesity, and diabetes.

“As the only single dose COVID-19 vaccine approved for use to date, the vaccine may be an important tool for accessing difficult-to-reach populations, thus playing a key role in preventing infections and reducing deaths across the country.

“As I mentioned previously, vaccines are a critical tool in the battle against COVID-19. These vaccines are safe and effective and will be the game-changer: but for the foreseeable future, we must continue wearing masks, physically distance and avoid crowds,” he explained.

According to him, “we can end the acute phase of the pandemic this year, we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency, and we can do it this year with observance of public health measures and increased vaccination coverage remain our best defense against another surge.

He added that the WHO was constantly analysing data as it receives them and working closely with relevant government agencies to use the data to help inform, initiate, and implement response actions, as well new policies, and strategies at National, State and Local Government Area levels.

He, however pledged that the WHO would continue to support the country in reaching its targeted population with Safe and effective vaccine.