Nigeria has written to the African Union to request 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to supplement the COVAX programme and has allocated $26 million for licensed vaccine production, the health minister said on Monday.

Like other countries across Africa, Nigeria is grappling with a second wave of the novel coronavirus. As of Monday, Nigeria, the continent's most populous country of 200 million inhabitants, had 110,387 confirmed cases and 1,435 deaths.

The African Union has secured a provisional 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from manufacturers for member states, its chair South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week.

"Nigeria has written to express interest in 10 million doses of the viral vector vaccine, which could be supplied as from March 2021," Health Minister Osagie Ehanire told Reuters. "This vaccine does not require deep freezers." Ehanire did not mention the name of the vaccine.

He also said the ministry of finance had released 10 billion naira ($26.27 million) to support domestic vaccine output as Nigeria was exploring options of "licensed production in collaboration with recognised institutions". He said the government is already in talks with "one or two producers".

Last week the finance minister said the government was working on the type and quantity of COVID-19 vaccines to procure and would make financial provision.

Nigerian authorities have said the country is working with the COVAX programme backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to secure fair access to COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries and expects to receive its first doses in late January and early February.

According to WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti last week, African countries could start to receive the first doses from COVAX by the end of March, with larger deliveries by June.

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