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COVID-19: Nigerians tackle Buhari for reserving Pfizer vaccine for VIPs, Chinese vaccine for ordinary citizens

The Nigerian government had notified citizens of an expected shipment of 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, due to arrive in the country late January.

• January 9, 2021
President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigerians have excoriated the Buhari administration for advancing moves to inoculate millions of citizens with the controversial Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine from China.

Foreign minister Geoffery Onyeama said Tuesday that Nigeria was in talks with Beijing to procure coronavirus vaccines to immunise millions of Nigerians against the viral infection, which had recorded 1342 fatalities as of Friday, January 8.

The Nigerian government had notified citizens of an expected shipment of 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, due to arrive in the country late January.

A Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 disclosed that the awaited inoculation was facilitated by the global COVAX programme of the World Health Organisation, which provides vaccines to indigent countries.

Coordinator of the Task Force Faisal Shuaib said Thursday that prominent Nigerians, frontline health workers and the vulnerable will be prioritised in administering the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine — the first approved by Western nations.

President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo will be vaccinated on live television, Mr. Faisal said, while appealing to Nigerians not to be hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine during roll-out.

Many Nigerians have, however, queried why the Pfizer vaccine appears to be reserved for a select group of citizens, while other nationals are bound to make do with alternative jabs from China.

“No need to vaccinate the VIPs on live TV. Just do the right thing. When you vaccinate the leaders with Pfizer, make sure the people are also vaccinated with Pfizer,” a former federal lawmaker Shehu Sani tweeted Friday. 

“When you vaccinate the people with Russian or Chinese vaccines, make sure the leaders are also vaccinated with the same brand,” he added in a series of tweets.

Mr. Sani’s comments were endorsed by a geoscientist @Ekenefirst, who wrote: “They should vaccinate everybody with Pfizer’s vaccine and not the Chinese or Russians own that has not been endorsed by WHO,”
“It would amount to wickedness to give us Chinese vaccine while they take Pfizer vaccine.”

Weighing in on the issue, a geologist @empopson said: “Don’t come and show us live feeds of vaccination while you import Chinese or Russian vaccines to the people and use them as lab rats.”

The Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine has been widely criticised and touted as “unsafe” for humans. 

Shanghai-based doctor Tao Lina was quoted by UK newspaper Daily Mail to have said that the Sinopharm vaccine was “the most unsafe in the world” with a whopping “73 side effects.”

Mr. Lina was, nonetheless, reported to have retracted his claim in bizarre circumstances, not unconnected to potential victimisation by Chinese authorities, known for its repression of citizens.  

Nigerians have continued to question why the Buhari-led federal government did not pre-purchase vaccines from Pfizer like many Western countries did, rather than rely on handouts from the global COVAX scheme.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a U.S.-based nonprofit think tank had recently reported that African governments were being “forced to find alternative vaccine supplies” since their American and European counterparts had pre-ordered vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna (the more prominent developers) “for domestic use.”

The WHO’s COVAX scheme aims to provide vaccines to not more than 20 percent of benefiting countries’ most vulnerable population, hence making the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine — developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group Corp. as the only viable alternative for Nigerian authorities.

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