Nigeria’s hope to vaccinate 70 percent of its over 200 million population has been dealt a further blow, with India, supplier of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX, suspends exportation till the end of 2021.
The decision of the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, to halt supplies to the World Health Organisation (WHO) scheme was announced on Tuesday as part of India’s effort to concentrate more resources on fighting the rage of the deadly COVID-19 variant rocking the country currently.
India’s coronavirus infections crossed 25 million as daily death toll hit a record high.
The move also further highlights the consequences a nation like Nigeria has to face for failing to build its own capacity to produce vaccines for its people.
Nigeria is currently a beneficiary of the WHO-coordinated COVAX facility as the AstraZeneca vaccine doses currently being distributed in the country are sourced from the SII.
After supplying roughly 4 million out of 16 million doses expected from COVAX, the institute has now delayed deliveries to other countries till year end, casting uncertainty on the future of vaccination in Nigeria.
Roughly 2 million vaccine doses, half of the initial consignment received, have been administered already under the first phase. Disruptions in the supply might elongate the interval required between the administration of first and second doses of AstraZeneca and affect efficacy.
Except for states such as Lagos, where second vaccine doses have been earmarked from initial allocation, many states that have exhausted their consignments are likely to be stranded.
“SII has delivered more than 200 million doses,” the Serum Institute said Tuesday in a statement posted to its Twitter account. The company said that in the past few days, there had been “intense discussion” on the decision of the Indian government and vaccine manufacturers about the possible export of vaccines.
We continue to scale up and prioritise India,” the company said, saying, “We also hope to start delivering to COVAX and other countries by the end of the year.”
Battling the world’s biggest jump in coronavirus infections, India halted vaccine exports a month ago after donating or selling more than 66 million doses.
Africa’s biggest economy has already started exploring other options outside India, with 29 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine expected through the African Union.
The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Tuesday granted an emergency use authorisation (EUA) for the single-dose COVID-19 vaccines developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.
Support is also likely to come from the US under a fresh commitment to donate a significant number of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX scheme for distribution to poorer countries.
A total of 20 million doses of the Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be sent by the end of June, apart from 60 million AstraZeneca doses already planned for donation, Joe Biden, US president on Monday.
Also on Wednesday, Gayle Smith, the US global coordinator on COVID said the US was also planning to increase its funding for COVAX, in addition to $2 billion which she said it had already donated to the facility.