ABUJA/LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria has not yet found the South African variant of COVID-19 in its population and will continue with plans to distribute the AstraZeneca vaccine, the head of the country’s primary healthcare agency said on Monday.
On Sunday, South Africa said it would put its use of the AstraZeneca shot on hold after research showed it was only minimally effective in preventing mild illness against the coronavirus variant dominant in the country.
Faisal Shuaib, director of Nigeria’s national primary healthcare development agency, said authorities were diligently searching test samples for the South African strain, and subjecting samples from travellers returning from the United Kingdom and South Africa to further genomic sequencing.
“We will continue to work with (regulators) to ensure that only a vaccine that is effective against the predominant COVID-19 strain in Nigeria will be administered,” Shuaib said.
Nigeria is expecting to receive 16 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot under the COVAX programme. It said it will move forward with the vaccine once it is certified by the World Health Organization, which it expects within days.
Shuaib has said Nigeria had also applied for 7.6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 18.4 million of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and was further considering vaccines from Russia and India.
“AstraZeneca is not the only vaccine we have access to,” he said, adding: “We do have options in case the South African variant is found in Nigeria.”
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with 200 million citizens, has reported 139,748 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,667 deaths.
(Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja and Libby George in Lagos; Editing by Mark Heinrich)