By Joseph Erunke
AS Nigeria expects to receive about four million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, the federal government, World Health Organisation, WHO, and United Nations Childrens Fund, UNICEF, have said frontline healthcare workers would be the first beneficiaries.
A statement jointly signed yesterday by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHCDA, the World Health Organisation, WHO and the United Nations Childrens Fund,UNICEF, said the country planned to vaccinate at least 70% of eligible Nigerians aged 18 years and above in four phases within two years.
Nigeria is scheduled to take delivery of 3.92 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine tomorrow, according to chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha.
The delivery will mark the first arrival of COVID-19 vaccine in the country and make Nigeria the next West African country to benefit from the COVAX facility after Ghana, and Cote dIvoire.
The statement, signed by the Executive Director and Chief Executive of NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, read:  The arrival of the vaccine will enable the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, to commence the vaccination of Nigerians in priority groups, starting with the frontline healthcare workers.
The arrival of this vaccine is the result of the commitment of the Federal Government, under the leadership of President Muhammandu Buhari, the support of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the guidance of the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire.
We are fully prepared to receive and deliver the vaccine to eligible Nigerians as we have commenced the training of health workers and ensured that cold chain facilities are ready at all levels.
We have a robust cold chain system that can store all types of COVID-19 vaccine in accordance with the required temperature. We are, therefore, confident that we will have a very effective roll-out of the vaccine, starting with our critical healthcare workers, who are in the frontline in providing the care we all need.
Also co-signing the statement, Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, said:  The delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine is part of an overall 16 million doses planned to be delivered to Nigeria in batches over the next months by the COVAX facility, as part of an unprecedented global effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The COVAX facility is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization, WHO, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, CEPI, with UNICEF as a key implementing partner.
On his part, WHO Representative in Nigeria, Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said:  The COVAX facility has worked exceptionally hard to ensure that Nigeria gets the vaccine as soon as possible so it can start its vaccination programme to the largest population in Africa.
Vaccines are a critical tool in the battle against COVID-19. In the meantime, Nigerians must continue to take steps to contain the virus, as the vaccination programme will take at least a year before it is fully effective.”
The country plans to vaccinate at least 70% of eligible Nigerians aged 18 years and above in four phases within two years.
Vanguard News Nigeria

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