Nigeria plans booster shots after first cases of Omicron variant

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A health worker takes a dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine from a vial during the roll out of mass vaccination for the disease in Abuja, Nigeria, November 19, 2021. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

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LAGOS, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Nigeria will start vaccine booster shots from next week for COVID-19, a senior official said, after the country confirmed its first cases of the Omicron variant among two travelers who arrived from South Africa last week.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, said booster shots will be available from Dec. 10 to those that have been fully vaccinated. Only 2.9% of Nigerians eligible to get vaccines have been inoculated so far.

First reported in southern Africa a week ago, Omicron -- the mutated coronavirus variant that poses high risk of infection -- has highlighted the disparity between massive vaccination programs in rich nations and sparse inoculation in the developing world.

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The government plans a massive campaign to aim at half of its target population by the end of January to reach herd immunity.

It received about 5 million AstraZeneca (AZN.L) shots in October from the COVAX global-sharing facility, both purchases and donations. Nigeria also had commitments for 11.99 million and 12.2 million doses of Pfizer Inc/BioNTech and Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccines, respectively.

The government has purchased nearly 40 million Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) doses, to arrive in batches, it has said.

Shuaib said booster shots will be available for those that have "completed two doses of AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech or one dose of Johnson & Johnson."

Several nations have imposed travel curbs on countries in southern Africa, while Hong Kong and Canada have barred non-resident travelers from Nigeria. South Korea said it detected the Omicron variant in fully vaccinated travelers who arrived last week from Nigeria.

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Reporting by Libby George Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha Editing by Alistair Bell

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