The Federal Government has asked all the states administering the Oxford-Azrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine to stop the exercise the moment they use half of the doses allocated to them.
This means that a state that was given 100,000 doses would have to stop the vaccine rollout once the doses hit 50,000 in order for those who have received their first jab to be able to complete their vaccination.
The directive was given as the government suspects that a possible delay in the supply of the next batch of the AstraZeneca vaccines as shortages loom in the international market as demand increases from countries in the European Union.
Also, the step is aimed at preventing a delay which could affect the availability of the vaccine for a second jab for those who have taken the first one.
However, the cause of the shortages of the vaccines in the international market could be traced to Indian’s new policy to prioritise domestic vaccination for its over 1.2 billion citizens, and this might affect developing nations like Nigeria.
Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Minister of State for Health, who confirmed the directive to the Punch, said states were asked to stop vaccination halfway until more vaccines arrive because it was the smartest thing to do since it is a double-dose vaccine.
Mamora said: “On the issue of stopping at half doses, we thought this is what wisdom dictates because in a situation where we seem to be in short supply, it stands to good reason to ensure that those who have had their first dose should be given the opportunity of having the second dose.
“It is better to have a pool of people who have received full vaccination rather than just do it halfway for everybody, which I think would not be the best in the circumstance. And you are not really covered if you have your full dosage.”
He, however, expressed doubts of when the country would receive its next supplies from the COVAX facility, adding that the government is already having talks with other parties including Russia, which is producing the Sputnik V vaccine.
“The truth is there is a challenge. However, we are not hopeless. The COVAX facility is not the only one we rely on. There is also AVATT, the regional facility which is the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. So, we definitely will be looking to AVATT to help increase the initial allocation in the circumstances with what is happening vis-a-vis production and supply from India.
“Both AVATT and COVAX are multilateral facilitators, but we also have bilateral negotiations. For example, the Sputnik is bilateral in the sense that it is government to government. Sputnik is Russian and as soon as we have the dossier and approval from NAFDAC, then we will consider it,” he added.
The minister noted that the country still prefers the AstraZeneca vaccine not because of its affordability, but because it is as good as others.
He hinted that one of the challenges that the government will face is increasing its initial cost projection of acquiring the vaccine.
He said: “One of the reasons we settled for AstraZeneca is not just because it is cheap but is as good as the others. They are giving it out at cost value. The challenge is that the initial element in terms of cost projection would have to increase because AstraZeneca is the cheapest. So, we may have to reconsider our initial cost projection. That is the challenge I see.”
In line with the government’s directive, states like Bauchi and Benue have obliged to halt vaccinations.