The World Health Organisation-led COVAX global initiative has failed to shortlist Nigeria for the Pfizer vaccines
following the country’s inability to meet the standard requirement of being able to store the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius.
The Nigerian government had stated that it was expected 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, regardless of income level.
Speaking at a virtual press conference
which was attended by Saturday PUNCH,
however, the Director, WHO, African Region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said only
four African countries were shortlisted for
the Pfizer vaccine out of the 13 that applied.
Moeti said WHO could not risk the Pfizer
vaccines being wasted. She said, “Around 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries – Cape Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia.
This vaccine has received WHO Emergency Use Listing but requires countries to be able to store and distribute doses at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
“To access an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine, countries were invited submit proposals. Thirteen African Countries submitted proposals and were evaluated by a multi-agency committee based on current mortality rates, new cases and trends, and the capacity to handle the ultra-cold chain needs of the vaccine.
“This announcement allows countries to
fine-tune their planning for COVID-19
immunisation campaigns. We urge
African nations to ramp up readiness and
finalise their national vaccine deployment
plans. Regulatory processes, cold chain
systems and distribution plans need to be
in place to ensure vaccines are safely
expedited from ports of entry to delivery. We can’t afford to lose a single dose.
The Director-General of the Nigerian
Institute of Medical Research, Prof
Babatunde Salako, had told this newspaper that there is not enough space at the moment to store the Pfizer vaccines at that temperature.
But the Executive Director of the National
Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, had described the report as fake, saying Nigeria had the capacity to store the vaccines and had taken journalists on a tour of its facility in Abuja.
Saturday PUNCH reports that Nigeria was
expected to be on the list of African countries to receive the first set of Pfizer
vaccines because of its rate of infection
which is now the sixth-highest on the
Nigeria has, however, received no COVID-19 vaccine even as its rate of infection has continued to surge.