By Emma Okonji
The Nigerian government has taken delivery of the first set of 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines out of a total of 1.4 million doses designated for Nigeria by the African Union (AU).
The vaccines are a combination of doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX facility and the AU’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, which the MTN Group contributed $25 million. The vaccines will be distributed among health workers in Nigeria by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA).
Commenting on the vaccines, the Director-General of the NPHDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said: “On behalf of health care workers in Nigeria, we commend the efforts of the Nigerian government and the African Union in the fight against COVID-19, and we thank MTN for their collaboration. The arrival of these vaccines is a major step, as we try to stay ahead of the virus. We need all the collaboration we can get, and I implore more organisations to join this drive for the Nigerian people.”
Also speaking, the Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, expressed appreciation on behalf of the government. According to him, “The donation of COVID-19 vaccines is truly helpful, and we are grateful. We can only succeed against COVID-19 when we fight together. These vaccines will go a long way in protecting health workers, who are on the frontline, and need all the protection they can get at this critical moment, hence the prioritisation of their vaccinations.”
Expanding on the power of partnership and collaboration, the Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Karl Toriola, said: “I thank the Nigerian government and the AU for the opportunity they granted the MTN to collaborate and contribute towards the delivery of these vaccines. The ongoing threat of COVID-19 requires a vast and accelerated effort by both the private and public sectors. Partnerships like this practically demonstrate what can achieved when we work together for Africa’s (and indeed Nigeria’s) progress. We are truly privileged to have been able to play our part in contributing towards government’s efforts to protect and save lives.”
A statement from the MTN, through its media agency, said: “At the start of the pandemic, the MTN Nigeria collaborated with government to curb the spread of the virus, in large part via the introduction of MTN’s Y’ello Hope platform. Y’ello Hope encompasses a broad range of interventions and programmes valued at approximately N25 billion that are designed to offer relief where it is needed most. These are aimed at supporting Nigeria’s people, customers, communities, and the various levels of government.
“Through Y’ello Hope the company provided free-to-access services (including SMS and data) to the most vulnerable, facilitated zero-rated access to healthcare websites, deployed the ‘Wear-it-for-me’ campaign to help create awareness around the importance of wearing masks, and made a N1 billion donation to the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19.”