Nigeria will fail to hit the “impossible” Covid vaccine target of 40% | Global development

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 warn.

Less than 1.5% of the country’s 206 million people are fully vaccinated. But with more people killed in conflict in the past year and far more deaths from malaria than Covid recorded in Nigeria, experts believe this is lower on the list of concerns for many in the country.

In September, the World Bank’s International Development Association approved a $ 400 million (£ 300 million) loan to expedite Nigeria’s Covid vaccination program. The money, according to the World Bank, is intended for the safe and effective purchase and use of vaccines. Days later, the World Health Organization announced a strategy to help poorer countries reach 40% vaccination coverage by the end of 2021, though Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said it was unlikely in Africa.

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

The feasibility of the Nigerian vaccination schedule was called into question when it was announced in January by Faisal Shuaib, head of the country’s primary health agency.

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

“The number of vaccines available in the country will not be enough for everyone who would come forward,” said Sadiq. “If we are to achieve the goal, we need to make more doses available and people need to be mobilized to come forward and take the vaccine. Not enough people come forward to even take the vaccines that are available. People don’t take the disease seriously because the severity is not as expected. The risk perception is not what it should be. “

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

A Lago police officer is chasing motorcycle taxi drivers after they refused to stop at barricades erected to enforce lockdown rules in May 2020.
A Lago police officer is chasing motorcycle taxi drivers after they refused to stop at barricades erected to enforce lockdown rules in May 2020. Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP / Getty Images

Since the outbreak began, there have been 212,500 confirmed cases with 2,900 deaths, according to the Nigerian Center for Disease Control. There are fewer than 5,500 active cases. Most of the quarantine centers and isolation wards that opened in the first few months of the outbreak have closed.

According to Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire, an average of 216 Nigerians die a day from malaria, and 3,326 people were killed “because of insecurity” in 2020, according to an analysis by Nigerian online newspaper Cable.

The government’s quick response to the Covid outbreak was initially welcomed. Protocols to combat the 2014 Ebola outbreak in neighboring West African countries were quickly changed and implemented. Airports have been closed and travelers have been given basic health checks before other countries take action. An initial two-week lockdown in the states of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun, imposed on March 30, lasted five weeks. Two weeks later, the National Human Rights Commission said, law enforcement agencies have killed 18 people since the lockdown began, while Covid has killed 12 people.

The low number of cases came despite public indifference or reluctance to follow Covid’s safety rules. Mobile courts that break the lock were often overcrowded. Churches and mosques routinely disregarded lockdowns and Covid protocols. Doubts and conspiracy theories about vaccines have put many off.

The government quickly realized that it was impractical to keep 206 million people, 40% of whom live below the poverty line, at home for long periods of time. During the second and third waves of Covid, lockdown wasn’t an option. The government’s food and palliative aids, designed to alleviate hunger during the lockdown, never reached those who needed them most.

When angry youths protesting police brutality broke into public warehouses containing Covid supplies across the country last October, they accused the government of hoarding the goods.

A security officer checks workers' vaccination cards at government offices in Benin City, southern Nigeria.
A security officer checks workers’ vaccination cards at government offices in Benin City, southern Nigeria. Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP / Getty Images

There is widespread suspicion of how the government is handling the pandemic.

The northern state of Kano reported large numbers of infections while pressuring the federal government to obtain funding to combat the outbreak. But the numbers fell immediately after the funds were approved. When reports surfaced of inflated prices for electronic thermometers and other medical supplies by government agencies, these suspicions were almost confirmed.

The low infection rates despite widespread disregard of the Covid protocols have amazed experts. “Nobody knows exactly why that is,” said Sadiq. “Some have put it down to the fact that most of the people here have received BCG vaccines against tuberculosis or live in an area endemic to malaria. Some say it could be because of the young age of the population. These are just hypotheses. I just think we’re testing. “

According to the WHO, six out of seven cases in Africa go undetected. Nigeria only ran 15.8 tests per 1,000.

The authorities remain determined to increase the number of vaccinations. Almost 9 million doses have been administered, with the US donating 4 million doses of Moderna in August.

As of December, civil servants will be banned from public buildings without a vaccination certificate or negative test. Their numbers may be negligible in the country’s population, but the verdict was a sign that the government is desperate to get closer to its goal.

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