ABUJA (Reuters) – President Muhammadu Buhari had his first COVID-19 vaccine shot on Saturday, part of a bid to boost public confidence as Nigeria attempts to inoculate 80 million people this year.
Vaccinating Nigeria’s 200 million people, and those in other developing countries, is seen as key to stemming the spread of the coronavirus, but getting doses across the vast nation, with its pot-holed roads and lawless areas, is a huge challenge.
Not all Nigeria’s states have functioning airports, rail networks are limited, and authorities also have to overcome public distrust around the vaccines.
“As a demonstration of leadership and faith in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, I have received my first jab and I wish to commend it to all eligible Nigerians to do the same so that we can be protected from the virus,” Buhari said.
“The vaccine offers hope for a safe country free of coronavirus,” the 78-year-old president added after he was vaccinated live on Nigerian television.
On Friday, a doctor became the first person in Nigeria to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Nigeria, with 158,042 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,954 deaths, has not been as hard hit as first feared, but aims to vaccinate 40% of its people this year, and another 30% in 2022.
“I urge Nigerians … not to listen to any conspiracy theories,” Boss Mustapha, who chairs Nigeria’s presidential task force on COVID-19, said at Buhari’s vaccination.
Nigeria took delivery of 3.92 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday through COVAX and expects 84 million doses via the scheme for poor and middle-income countries this year.
The scheme is co-led by Gavi, the vaccine alliance, and the World Health Organization, with UNICEF an implementing partner.
Reporting by Felix Onuah and Paul Carsten; Editing by Alexander Smith