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Hesitancy persists as vaccine doses run out

As of June 20, 2021, there were 246,201 new cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide and the total number of deaths from the virus has reached almost 3.9 million. Although, the rollout of vaccination is a strategy to curb the infections, global shortage of the jabs has, however, continued to hinder progress in tackling the pandemic, reports APPOLONIA ADEYEMI

United States (U.S.) President, Joe Biden raised hope of COVID-19 vaccine availability for millions of people in developing nations, especially poor countries when he announced allocation plan on June 21, for 55million doses of coronavirus vaccines to be shared globally. This came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partners continued to advocate vaccine equity globally, calling it a major condition to tackle COVID-19. According to information by the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, these 55million doses are the remaining part of the 80 million Biden promised to allocate by the end of June.

The pledge by the Biden-Harris Administration was announced a week after a landmark agreement at United Kingdom(UK) G7 summit where global leaders similarly said they would share 870 millionCOVID-19 vaccine doses internationally, in support of global equitable access and to help end the acute phase of the pandemic. These coming from the U.S. and the G7 leaders, is a reassurance that available vaccines which appear to be running out mostly in Africa including Nigeria will soon be a thing of the past.

It will be recalled that since the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility shipped 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), from Mumbai to Abuja on March 2, global vaccine supply chain may have been limited due to several reasons. COVAX is the worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access toCOVID-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the WHO. Sadly, many advanced economies have dominated vaccine supplies from their regions, re-directing local supplies to address domestic needs and consequently creating global shortage. As of April 9, the WHO said although, more than 700 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, richer countries have received more than 87 per cent, and low-income countries just 0.2 per cent.

As of June 20, 2021, there were 246,201 new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide and the total number of deaths from COVID-19 has reached almost 3.9 million. To help poor countries, Biden said these 80 million doses, the U.S. will share 75 per cent through COVAX and 25 per cent will be targeted to help deal with surges around the world. “Our goals are to increase global COVID- 19vaccination coverage, prepare for surges and prioritise healthcare workers another vulnerable populations based on public health data and acknowledged best practice, and help our neighbors and other countries in need.” Approximately 41 million will be shared through COVAX, outof which approximately 10 million is earmarked for Africa including Nigeria, tobe shared with countries that will be selected in coordination with the African Union (AU).

Nigeria currently targets to vaccinate an initial two million of its population, pending when it gets additional vaccines. Presently, the country is still expecting the delivery of additional vaccine doses. On June 17, the Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus said globally, the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported to WHO has now declined. “While weekly cases are at their lowest since February, deaths are not falling as quickly. The number of deaths reported last week was similar to the previous week.

“In the past 7 days, reported cases from Africa have increased by 55 per cent, and reported deaths have increased by 38 percent. And we know that the actual numbers are higher.” However, he stated that a recent study in the ‘Lancet’ showed Africa has the highest global mortality rate among critically ill COVID-19 patients, despite having fewer reported cases than most other regions. Ghebreyesus said the global failure to share vaccines equitably is now taking its toll on some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

“Available evidence suggests new variants of concern have substantially increased transmissibility, and these variants are circulating globally. “That means the risks have increased for people who are not protected, which is most of the world’s population.

“Right now, the virus is moving faster than the global distribution of vaccines.” Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, recently said Nigeria was expecting 29 million Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines between June and July, adding that India, which supplied the first batch of the Oxford- AstraZeneca jabs, had stopped more supplies owing to constraints.

He advised Nigerians to sustain extant safety protocols, warning that the country was not yet out of the woods. In spite of fears that the third wave of the pandemic was imminent in some quarters, many Nigerians remain adamant over non-adherence to COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical protocols (NPC)Sadly, such Nigerians continue to rely on baseless rumours some of which have it that those that got the jabs will die shortly. Some claim have it that the lifespan of persons on whom the vaccines were administered would be shorter than the number of years they were naturally expected to live; while some said the jab was linked to infertility, among others.

However, as these information continue to deter Nigerians to cue for vaccination, a foremost Virologist, Prof. Oyewale Tomori has urged Nigerians to take the jab, saying COVID-19 vaccines are safe, having gone through WHO safety approvals. He debunked claims of their links with infertility and shortening of lifespan. However, as Nigerians await the delivery of the promised doses, experts believe that if the pledges to donate vaccines from advanced countries become actualised, it could go a long way to bridge the vaccine shortages in the country as well as help Nigeria achieve needed herd immunity.

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