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Will Nigeria Ever Get the COVID-19 Vaccine in Time?

January 22, 2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
Written by Tolu Okunade

Will Nigeria Ever Get the COVID-19 Vaccine? This is one question that has been on the lips of every Nigerian. The desperation has further heightened since the second wave of Corona Virus hit the nation, spreading a more deadly strain.

A little backstory.

Given the extraordinary circumstances and devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines have to reach people across the country, as quickly as possible and work safely and effectively.

The Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have oversight of regulatory checks and approvals for public delivery and the use of medicines and other critical health technologies, including vaccines, within Nigeria. All vaccines will need to be registered with the agency whose job it is to ensure that they meet the necessary standards for safety, quality and efficacy.

What are the Procedures for the approval of the COVID Vaccine in Nigeria?

  1. Prequalification

NAFDAC will be leveraging the World Health Organization’s (WHO) long-established prequalification procedures. Such leveraging facilitates the efficient registration of WHO-approved vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. Nigeria will also be relying on decisions by major national and regional regulators, including the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA), which have committed to maximising transparency surrounding their approvals of COVID-19 vaccines.

This means that vaccines that have already gained approval from these external regulators will qualify for the NAFDAC fast-track domestic review process for regulatory approval and licensing. Such a fast-track approach is likely to see reviews completed in just 15 days rather than several months, according to NAFDAC’s Director-General, Mojisola Adeyeye.

  1. Safety Monitoring

Information from vaccine manufacturers, including results from clinical trials, will be further evaluated by NAFDAC as an additional safety mechanism to ensure that vaccines satisfy all regulator-specific standards for use in Nigeria. In addition to data robustness checks, NAFDAC plans to assess risk management plans and vaccine manufacturing practices.

Faisal Shuaib, Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency, has said that the Government aims to Vaccinate about 40 per cent of the population in 2021 and increase that number to 70 per cent of the population by the end of 2022.

As a first step, the country of more than 200 million people expects to receive 100,000 doses of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine at the end of January through the Covax initiative, though Covax has not started shipping vaccines yet and has not given a precise date for when it will begin.

At first, the Government said they didn’t have the required storage facilities to store the vaccines. However, they have secured the services of the private sector for ultra-cold storage facilities to help store and distribute the vaccines.

However, I do not see that plan to distribute vaccines as probable. A nation that doesn’t have the adequate facilities for taking care of the 70,000 persons infected by COVID miraculously has the facilities to vaccinate 40 per cent of its 200 million people population? It doesn’t add up. And if by a mere stroke of luck we were able to do such, 40 per cent is only a tiny fraction of the entire population.

We have reported 103,999 cases, with 1,382 deaths, but testing is not easily accessible for most people. Only about 1.1 million tests have been carried out so far. A sliver of the Nigeria populace. However, you can be certain that with the reopening of schools across the country and the flagrant disregard for the COVID-19 protocols, that number would skyrocket.

Hospital beds are full. Our frontline workers are overworked and underpaid. The healthcare system is crumbling, leaving many in panic. Desperation has further heightened since the second wave of Corona Virus hit the nation, spreading a more deadly strain. Will our governments ensure we get the COVID Vaccines in time to save us? Only time will tell.

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