Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, has said Nigeria is expecting to receive its first batch of the COVID-19 vaccines by early March.
Ehanire said this while addressing journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja on Wednesday.
The Federal Government had said last week that Nigeria would receive four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine very soon.
But asked about when the vaccines will be delivered, the health minister explained that the date cannot be decided by Nigeria, noting that the decision will be made by COVAX, the United Nations initiative to procure and distribute Covid inoculations for free for poorer countries.
He referenced the previous dates that the country had been promised but said the government is hopeful that the vaccines will be delivered by the beginning of March.
He said: “That is not in our hands. It is the hand of the person who is bringing it to us.
“We have been told to open an account with Afreximbank under the African Union; we have done that already successfully because we are going to pay for that part of the vaccine. The COVAX vaccine is free, at no cost to us, it is made from donations.
“We want to immunise about 60 to 70% of our population. If COVAX immunises 20, then we have about 40 to 50 to immunise within the next two years. So, we have to pay for that minus any donations that we get like the MTN donation, for example, all those ones reduce the quantities that we have to purchase or any other that in future are given to us free of charge.
“Now, the COVAX will start delivering to African countries before the end of February; that’s what they told us.
“But they didn’t tell us which country is first or which is second, which is third. So, COVAX begins to deliver before the end of February. And we hope that before the end of this month, it would be our turn or latest by beginning of next month.”
Ehanrie stated that about 70 per cent of the population is expected to be inoculated within two years.
The minister’s comments came on the same day that Ghana became the first country to receive vaccines from COVAX.