The Africa Union (AU) on Monday handed over the first shipment of 177,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine to Nigeria.
The African Union launched the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) in November 2020 to ensure widespread access to COVID-19 vaccines across Africa.
President and Chairman of Board of African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), Prof. Benedict Oramah, while handing the vaccines to the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) in Abuja, said “that the vaccine acquisition by AVAT was a unique milestone for the African continent.
Nigeria is one of the earliest to benefit from a supply deal agreed in March 2021 to procure 220 million doses for the continent with the potential to order another 180 million.
The single dose of COVID-19 vaccine made by J&J is highly effective in preventing severe illness and death from the Delta and Beta variants of the coronavirus, data from a clinical trial in South Africa suggest.
The J&J vaccines by Janssen Pharmaceutical’s vaccine cost Nigeria $7.50 against $10 per dose and the country is procuring about 29,850,000 doses through the AU, under AVAT.
According to Oramah, it is the first time that AU member states have purchased vaccines collectively to safeguard the health of the African population.
He added that Afreximbank was pleased to have contributed to the historic procurement of vaccines by AVAT.
He noted that this was the first shipment of 177,600 doses of the J&J single-dose vaccines into Nigeria.
He said that Nigeria would be receiving over two million vaccine doses in batches.
“In August a total of 1,173,132 doses of J&J first batch of 176,000 doses and second batch of 997,132 doses. Then deliveries will continue every month.
“Afreximbank is delighted to be a part of this successful breakthrough in Africa. This was also possible through our partners – Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), AVATT, Africa Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, and the AU for their invaluable contribution to achieving this milestone,” he noted.
He said that the target was to deliver almost 50 million vaccines before the end of December 2021.
“By January 2022, the number of vaccines being released will be in excess of 25 million per month,” he explained.
The Chairman said that this would be in collaboration with the AMSP and UNICEF was providing logistical and delivery services to the member states.
He added that the shipment for a total of 6.4m doses began in August 2021 and they would arrive in several member states.
International donors had agreed to provide half of the remaining doses through the COVAX initiative, Omah said.
“It is significant that these vaccine doses are being produced on the African continent at the Aspen Pharmacare facility in Gqeberha in South Africa.
“The very low access to vaccines has exposed Africa to devastating third and fourth waves of COVID-19. Death rates are rising, and economies are becoming increasingly vulnerable. We are encouraged by the successful commencement of this vaccine roll-out, which will help contain the spread of the virus and protect lives and livelihoods,” he stressed.
Earlier, the Country Director of the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, Nigeria, Dr Mary Boyd, said that the U.S. was supporting countries worldwide to promote the COVID-19 vaccines.
“This donation of 4,000,080 doses of Moderna to Nigeria is a fulfilment of that promise, and a clear commitment from the U.S. government to lead the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.
“In addition, since the onset of the pandemic in Nigeria, the U.S. has provided more than 73 million dollars in COVID-19 assistance from the deployment of personnel to support the response to the delivery of a mobile field hospital right here in Federal Medical Centre Jabi to additional, more than 200 ventilators, personal protective equipment and other COVID-19 control measures.
“To date, over 180,000 Nigerians have been reported to the infected with COVID-19, and nearly 2,500 have died,” she explained.