COVID-19: WHY AREN’T NIGERIANS GETTING VACCINATED?


As a share of the population, Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 vaccination in Africa. With a rate of 0.57 percent, vaccination uptake is well below the average for the entire African continent (0.89 percent). The rate of COVID-19 vaccination for Ghana, 2.71 percent, is almost 5 times that of Nigeria. Even in Togo, Nigeria’s little brother, the vaccination rate is 1.93 percent, and more than double that of Nigeria.

Here are a few to know things about the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria:

1. Which vaccines are currently available in Nigeria? 
The AstraZeneca Vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine in use in Nigeria at the moment.

Nigeria has received doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX – a program co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) – to ensure equitable vaccine access for low- and middle-income countries.

Nigeria is also expecting another 40 million vaccine doses from the African Union (AU) to be delivered by the end of April, said government official Tolu Ogunlesi.

The AU recently concluded a deal with Johnson & Johnson to secure 400 million doses of its single-dose jab starting in July 2021, and Faisal Shuaib, who heads Nigeria's National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) told Reuters that the Nigerian government is hoping to secure 70 million doses of those vaccines.

The NPHCDA is the government agency directly responsible for distributing the COVID-19 vaccines around the country. 

2. How many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine does Nigeria have?
Nigeria has received around 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine out of the 16 million COVID-19 vaccine doses it expects from COVAX. The remaining doses are expected to be delivered in the coming months. 

It has also received a donation of 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from telecommunication company MTN and another 100,000 doses from the Indian government.

3. Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine right now?
Frontline health care workers, government officials, contact tracing teams, and the elderly are first in line to get the jab.

“The vaccine rollout will be in four phases, starting with health workers, frontline workers, COVID-19 rapid response team, laboratory network, policemen, petrol station workers, and strategic leaders,” said Shuaib in March.

4. How can Nigerians get the vaccine?
Eligible Nigerians can get the vaccine by registering on the NPHCDA website, after which they will receive a vaccination ID. 

However, NPHCDA also says that its vaccine rollout plans are still in the first phase, which it says is all about prioritizing health and frontline workers across the country, suggesting that vaccination is not open to the rest of the public just yet. 

“The current phase (phase one) of vaccination covers health workers and other frontline workers; but with the health workers given priority ahead of the others. The frontline workers include personnel from sectors such as the military, paramilitary and other security agencies, transportation and logistics, communications, education, religious, finance, relevant government agencies,” it said in a statement.

5. How many people have gotten the vaccine?
Just under a million Nigerians – less than 1% of the population – have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of April 6, according to data from NPHCDA.

The commercial city of Lagos, which has recorded the highest number of cases in Nigeria (more than 57,000), has also vaccinated the most people – just over 164,000 people out of its 20 million residents. 

6. Is Nigeria distributing vaccines equitably? 
It's hard to tell – the government is yet to describe how it plans to vaccinate 70% of Nigerians by 2022.

“Our target is to vaccinate 100% of the eligible population. We plan that within the first year, we should be able to vaccinate up to 70% of the population and by the second year, vaccinate the remaining 30%,” Shuaib told CNBC in an interview. 

However, it is unclear how the government plans to achieve these figures with nearly half the doctors in the country currently on strike, and as the government has only been able to secure vaccine doses through multilateral bodies like COVAX and the AU, it has to compete with other low-income countries for limited doses as global supply struggles to meet demand. 

There is also no information on how the government is identifying the most vulnerable Nigerians to prioritize, as the country has historically struggled with a lack of data.
 
Furthermore, the online registration requirement for vaccination excludes more than half of the Nigerian population, who do not have access to an internet connection. 

"I am very happy to be the first health worker to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but I will be happier if we get a herd immunity against COVID-19 by vaccinating at least 70% of the Nigerian population," said Dr. Cyprian Ngong, the first person to receive the jab in Nigeria, at the vaccine rollout ceremony. 

This article was adapted from Global Citizen from a write-up titled, “6 Things to Know About How Nigeria is Distributing COVID-19 Vaccine

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