While the controversy over the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine continued, the Nigerian government said the vaccine is safe for use. Monday reports revealed that the government has distributed almost four million doses of the vaccine to different states in the country .
According to reports, at least three European countries – Germany, France, and Italy – have joined a few others who had suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
However, the Nigerian government assured its citizens that it had tested the vaccine and confirmed its safety. Also, it noted the view of the World Health Organisation and many other countries, including the UK.
Distribution of the vaccines
The country’s authority revealed that all the Nigerian states had received doses of the Oxford-Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine, except one.
“The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines have been distributed to all states, except Kogi state,” Faisal Shuaib said. Shuaib is the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). He reportedly made this statement at the weekly briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
According to him, the government did not distribute the vaccines to Kogi State due to a lack of adequate storage facility. Shuaib noted that the vandalisation of facilities happened during the #EndSARS protest in the country.
Nigeria took delivery of 3.94 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines in early March and has since begun administration to prioritised groups.
Reports indicated that President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) received jabs of the vaccine publicly. They did that to drive the acceptance of the vaccine.
Furthermore, Shuaib reportedly said last Monday that the government has started distributing doses of the vaccines to various states across the country.
According to him, the delivery of the vaccines to the states is on the basis of satisfactorily meeting the conditions to keep them safe and potent. However, he did not disclose the number of vaccines each state received.
Kogi State has always been controversial since the outbreak of COVID-19. According to reports, the state government initially denied the existence of the virus, discouraging COVID-19 tests in the state.
The state, which has about 3.5 million people, is the least impacted across the country with a total of just five infections. Two patients have died and the remaining three have since recovered. The last fatality happened in early June 2020.
Consequently, the PTF on COVID-19 reportedly declared the state a high-risk state. Kogi refused to acknowledge the existence of the pandemic.
The PTF said the state government had failed to report testing, lacked isolation centres. Therefore, it warned Nigerians to be wary of visiting the state.
The governor of the state, Yahaya Bello, had repeatedly made controversial and false statements about the coronavirus pandemic. Bello had, in one instance, described the deadly disease as a hoax.
Since the pandemic broke out in February 2020, Nigeria has carried out over 1.6 million tests. According to reports, over 160,000 people tested positive, while a total of 145,399 patients have recovered across the country.
Too, there was a record of about 2,013 fatalities resulting from the virus.
The safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
Although there have been growing concerns over the safety of the vaccine, the Nigerian government believed in its safety and efficacy.
This is coming about two months after South Africa rejected about 1.5 million doses of the same vaccine. This reportedly happened after evidence emerged that the vaccine did not protect clinical-trial participants from mild or moderate illness.
Also, reports revealed that over Seven European countries have suspended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines. They claimed the usage of the vaccine resulted in blood clotting difficulties and deaths.
But in Nigeria, the chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, made a contrary remark during Monday briefing. According to him, the Nigerian authorities had tested and authorized the use of the vaccine. He maintained the vaccine is safe and effective.
Mustapha also noted that the government will always prioritize the health of its citizens.
It’s worth noting that the AstraZeneca vaccine is important, especially to the COVAX arrangement. COVAX is a WHO programme that promises access to vaccines for up to 20 per cent of participating countries’ population.
Because it is relatively cheap, easy to make and store, the vaccine is the most suitable for developing countries.