As the world counts down the weeks to a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine, we look at the steps that would have to be followed before the vaccine would be approved for use in Nigeria. Nigerians were treated to a day of muddled communication from health officials on 4 September 2020. The federal health ministry set the ball rolling by publicising a visit by the Russian ambassador to its Abuja offices. “Russian-made Covid-19 vaccine finally here,” it declared in a press statement widely reported by the media.
The statement said that while ambassador Alexey Shebarshin had “admitted that he is a non-scientist”, he would be formally handing over the vaccine to Nigeria. The ministry was soon back. “We have been corrected to see [the vaccine] as still being with the Russians and not with the Nigerian health authorities,” it said in a second statement hours later. “What was handed over was an aide memoir to enable the Nigerian team [to] study and get ready for further researches, patronage and application.” An aide-mémoire is a diplomatic note between two countries. “Contrary to its much publicised claim” the government had “corrected itself” and “fully refuted its own claim”, one news publication said of the U-turn, sounding rather miffed.But when a vaccine for Covid-19 becomes available, how would it be approved for use in Nigeria? And would vaccines made locally be licensed? This factsheet answers these and other frequently asked questions.
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