Nigeria may experience some setback in its coronavirus vaccine distribution as the Serum Institute of India (SII), the main supplier of the COVAX facility, says it may not resume export of vaccine doses till the end of 2021.
Nigeria is currently a beneficiary of the United Nations-led COVAX facility which is facilitating the procurement of vaccines for African countries.
In February 2021, COVAX had announced the donation of 16 million doses to Nigeria, although the country is currently distributing the 3.9 million doses supplied in March for the first phase of vaccination.
The AstraZeneca vaccine doses currently being distributed in the country are sourced from the SII.
Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, had said Nigeria is expecting 58 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX and African Union AVATT platform, while Faisal Shuaib, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), had said the country should receive some vaccine doses via COVAX by the end of May or in June.
But in a statement on Tuesday, SII said it will focus on boosting the vaccination drive for India as the country battles a major spike in its infection rate.
As a result of the surge in India — the south Asian country has recorded over 400,000 cases daily in recent times — several countries have responded by sending aid in the form of medicines, oxygen concentrators and ventilators.
According to SII, the decision to support other countries was taken at a time when the daily cases recorded in India were low.
“In the past few days, there has been an intense discussion on the decision of the government and Indian vaccine manufacturers, including the Serum Institute of India (SII) to export vaccines,” the statement reads.
“In January 2021, we had a large stockpile of vaccine doses. Our vaccination drive had started successfully and the number of daily cases being recorded were at an all-time low.
“Around the same time, many other countries in the world were facing an acute crisis and were in desperate need of help. Our government extended support wherever possible during this period.
“We will not be safe till everyone globally is able to defeat this virus at a global scale. Further, as part of our global alliances, we also had commitments to COVAX, so that they could distribute the vaccines globally to end the pandemic.
“SII has delivered more than 200 million doses, even though we received EUA two months after the US pharma companies. If we look at total doses produced and delivered, we rank amongst the top three in the world. We continue to scale up manufacturing and prioritize India. We also hope to start delivering to COVAX and other countries by the end of this year.”
However, Nigeria has explored other options outside India, with 29 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine expected through the African Union.