Nigeria unlikely to reach ‘impossible’ 40% Covid vaccine target

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It will be “impossible” for Nigeria to meet its target of vaccinating 40% of its population by the end of the year because Covid is not being taken seriously, health experts have warned.

Fewer than 1.5% of the country’s 206 million population has been fully vaccinated. But with more people killed in conflict last year and substantially more recorded deaths from malaria than Covid in Nigeria, experts believe it is further down the list of concerns for many in the country.

In September, the World Bank’s International Development Association approved a $400m (£300m) credit to speed up Nigeria’s Covid vaccination programme. The money, the World Bank said, was for safe and effective vaccine acquisition and deployment. Days later, the World Health Organization announced a strategy to help poorer countries achieve 40% vaccination coverage by the end of 2021, although WHO Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti said that was unlikely in Africa.

“At this rate, the continent may only reach the 40% target by the end of March 2022,” said Moeti.

The feasibility of Nigeria’s vaccination plan was questioned when it was announced in January by Faisal Shuaib, head of the country’s primary healthcare agency.

Now, it looks impossible, said Prof Isa Abubakar Sadiq, director at the Centre for Infectious Diseases Bayero University Kano.

“The number of vaccines available in the country will not be enough for all those who would come forward,” said Sadiq. “If we are to achieve the target, we need more doses to be available and people need to be mobilised to come forward and take the vaccine. Not enough people are coming forward to even take the available vaccines. People are not taking the disease seriously because the severity is not as projected. The risk perception is not as it should be.”

At the start of the pandemic, experts predicted that Covid would have a devastating impact on Nigeria, with global repercussions across the continent and the world, a result of its strained health care system, the size of its population and its mobility. But reported cases and deaths have remained comparatively low.

File photo – EPA-EFE/GEORGE ESIRI

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