The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday said Nigeria and other African countries would not receive Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccines because of a number of factors, including the limited capacity for Pfizer to handle many countries at once.
WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Walter Mulombo-Kazadi, who stated this at a press conference hosted by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), also said spreading the limited doses of the vaccines across all the 51 countries deemed ‘ready’ could have not achieved the intended public health benefit.
He noted that after epidemiological data was taken into account, the decision was taken to proportionally balance the number of self-financing as well as
participants across all WHO regions.
These clarifications were sequel to some media reports that the WHO-led COVAX global initiative has failed to shortlist Nigeria for the Pfizer vaccines, following its inability to meet the standard requirement of storing the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius.
The Federal Government had said Nigeria was expecting to receive 100,000 doses through the COVAX initiative, which was set up to ensure rapid and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all countries.
“WHO has not disqualified any country in Africa from accessing COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, but rather is supporting all countries to access vaccines as quickly as possible,” Mulombo-Kazadi said.
“Currently, all countries on the continent are expected to start accessing the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccines by the end of February. The vaccine is under review by WHO for Emergency Use Listing and the outcome is expected soon.
“Demand for the initial allocation of 1.2 million Pfizer doses was exceptionally high. COVAX received interest from 72 countries around the world, of which 51 countries were considered by the review committee as ready (Nigeria was among these countries) and 18 countries in total were finally chosen to receive initial Pfizer doses.
“On the Africa continent, as of the 18 January deadline, COVAX received 13 submissions and a multi-agency committee evaluated the proposals of which 9 were recommended as ready to deploy the Pfizer vaccine including Nigeria,” he said.
Also speaking, Executive Director of NPHCDA, Faisal Shuaib, said Nigeria shall be receiving 16 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to replace the 100,000 Pfizer vaccine in the same month of February.
“100,000 doses to Nigeria, we have all agreed, would have been a drop in the ocean. So, it is a welcome development. The 16m doses will invariably help us reach more of our population and is suited to our existing cold chain system,” Shuaib said.
He also said Nigeria has Ultra Cold Chain equipment that would have been able to store over 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine if they were brought to Nigeria, insisting that the country is ready for any type of vaccine that is allocated to it.
“It is clear that countries such as South Africa which received the Pfizer allocation have the new strain of the COVID-19 virus, has the highest mortality rates and is struggling to contain the transmission,” Shuaib said.
“Furthermore, giving smaller countries such as Cape Verde and Rwanda a few doses of the Pfizer vaccine would have a larger public health impact considering their population size.
“Many of you were with us at the National Strategic Cold store to physically see the ultracold chain equipment that we have. This visit was conducted in the spirit of transparency and accountability on the part of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) and Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH).
“I want to assure all Nigerians that the Federal Government under the leadership of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari is determined and committed to acquiring the COVID-19 vaccines that are safe, effective and available for deployment,” he said.