By Linda Violet Nigerian
The Federal government of Nigeria has received over three million doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Italian government.
The donation is in line with the global call for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, who received the donation, said that it was a reflection of the sincerity and commitment of the Government of Italy and European delegates to the global efforts in halting the COVID-19 pandemic for nations of the world to return to their normal way of life.
Let me assure you Your Excellencies, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, that these vaccines, like all other vaccines we have in-country, will be judiciously utilized, as we have instituted accountability in the COVID-19 vaccination programme to ensure efficient use of all available resources. Also, let me reiterate the fact that we have an adequate quantity of COVID-19 vaccines across all states for every eligible person in Nigeria. And to assure all Nigerians, our donors, and partners, that we are committed to equitable and effective COVID-19 vaccination. I, therefore, urge all persons aged 18 years and above including pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to take advantage of the availability of these vaccines to get vaccinated.
All COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria are free, safe, effective and protect you, your family and your community against COVID-19.“
He disclosed that as of Monday, April 11, 2022, Nigeria has fully vaccinated 13,588,718 persons which is approximately 12.2% of its total eligible population.
“Meanwhile 23,012,700 Nigerians have received their first dose which represents 18% of the total eligible population. We have also intensified our technical support to the states to ramp up the vaccination coverage.
“We are currently supporting the states to finalize their micro plans which we believe will further strengthen accountability in the utilization and management of available resources and increase uptake based on locally acceptable methods and standards.“
According to him, to ensure that Nigeria fully utilizes the COVID-19 vaccination programme in strengthening the primary health care system by using routine immunization as an entry point, its current strategic approach for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, known as the optimized SCALES 2.0 strategy, entails the integration of COVID-19 Vaccines with the current implementation.
“This means that parents and caregivers with children or Wards aged zero to two years are encouraged to bring their children along to the COVID-19 vaccination site where childhood vaccines are available. While the adult receives COVID-19 vaccines, the children are assessed for the antigen they are due for and vaccinated. Thus, making the vaccination exercise more family-friendly. We believe this will further motivate eligible persons, including pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to get vaccinated against COVID-19,“ Dr Shuaib said.
He, therefore, urged all eligible Nigerians who are yet to be vaccinated or who are due for their second or booster dose to please avail themselves of current opportunities to receive their COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the World Health Organisation Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Mulombo, the Italian government has been at the forefront of COVID-19 response through funding and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility.
“This donation is another remarkable example of global solidarity in action to end this pandemic. The World Health Organisation(WHO) as a key partner would like to thank the Italian Government for this great contribution,“ Dr. Mulombo said.
He noted that vaccination was still the best defence against COVID-19 and that WHO would continue to see mass vaccination campaigns produce results.
“The donated vaccines will go a long way in boosting the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination in the country. WHO and partners will continue to lead and manage the COVAX pillar of ACT-Accelerator, providing end-to-end integrated support for the global vaccination targets.
Similarly, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Peter Hawkins, said that the Johnson and Johnson vaccines would go along way in boosting vaccination in Nigeria.
On her part, the European Union Ambassador to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi, said that soon vaccine squeaky would be achieved through more donations.
She commended the Italian government for the good gesture.
“The EU’s action against COVID-19 does not stop at its borders. Since 2021, as Team Europe, the EU and its member states have given more than 20 million COVID-19 doses to Nigeria through COVAX. By acting together, guided by the principles of solidarity and multilateralism, we can collectively overcome COVID-19. Today’s donation is in furtherance of Team Europe’s contribution towards a resilient and healthy population because we understand that health is central to the development of any country.”
The Italian Ambassador to Nigeria, Stefano De Leo, who made the donation, said that the efficiency of working through multilateral platforms, and highlighted the efforts of Team Europe, which has pledged to donate 700 million doses worldwide by mid-2022.
“Italy remains committed, along with other European Union members, to support Nigeria’s vaccine needs, with the aim to help to expand global vaccine coverage. Providing single-shot vaccines reduces logistical challenges and ensure a faster achievement of Nigeria’s Government vaccination goals.”
It would be recalled that in February, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Health and NPHCDA formally rolled out the administration of the J&J vaccine across the country.
The EU and its Member States are so far the biggest donors of COVID-19 vaccines in the world, having shared over 500 million doses for donation to countries around the world, via COVAX and bilaterally.
Italy has pledged USD 470 million to the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (Gavi COVAX AMC) and has provided additional specific funding and doses to priority countries.