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Nigeria expects to get its first COVID-19 vaccine doses in January

epa08745732 A protester holds a banner during a protest against the Nigeria rogue police, otherwise known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Lekki district of Lagos, Nigeria, 14 October 2020. During the week of 05 October, the Nigerian federal government yielded to a call by the Nigerian youth calling for the disbandment of SARS, for its public harassments, innocent killings of citizens, and other unethical conducts. But an announcement of a new police squad--Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), by Nigeria's police chief has sparked a new wave of protests across Nigeria. EPA-EFE/AKINTUNDE AKINLEYE

ABUJA, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Nigeria expects to receive its first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in January, the country's health minister said on Wednesday, but officials do not yet know which one they will get.

By Felix Onuah

Africa’s most populous nation has not been as hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic as others on the continent such as South Africa, but it warned last week of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said that Nigeria has a working group in place to handle vaccines, and is working with the COVAX programme backed by the World Health Organization.

“We have 200 million citizens. We need to have a way to be able to get enough to be able to take care of our citizens.”

Nigeria is in talks with vaccine manufacturers as well as teams in Britain and Russia, Ehanire said, adding that the United Arab Emirates was introducing the country to the makers of a Chinese vaccine that UAE officials had tested.

Nigeria does not at present have many facilities that can store the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, which must be kept at minus 70 Celsius, Ehanire said.

While the Nigerian government is looking into the cost of additional ultra-cold freezers, it would aim to secure a vaccine that not only worked well but had a “good cost of storage and cost of delivery”, he added.

Nigeria had 74,132 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,200 deaths as of Wednesday. (Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by Libby George; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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