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No African country disqualified from accessing COVID-19 vaccine-WHO

…Nigeria gets allocation of 16 million doses

By Hassan Zaggi

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that Nigeria has not  been disqualified from accessing the COVID-19 vaccines.

It also reiterated that no country in Africa has been disqualified by WHO from accessing the vaccines.

This is contrary to speculations making the rounds in a section of the media that WHO has disqualified Nigeria from accessing the COVID-19 vaccines.

The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo, disclosed this at a joint media briefing with the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, in Abuja, Saturday.

Nigeria, according to him, has received the allocation of  16,000 dosses of the vaccine.

“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.

“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.

“Of the 88 million AstraZeneca doses allocated to African countries for the first phase, Nigeria has received by far the largest allocation, with 16 million doses.

“In addition to the Astra Zeneca doses, there is an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine available through COVAX.

“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. 

“Unfortunately, it was not feasible to provide each of these 51 countries with Pfizer doses, due to a number of factors including the limited capacity for Pfizer to handle many countries at once. Therefore, spreading the limited doses across all the 51 countries deemed ‘ready’. could have not achieve the intended public health benefit.  

“After epidemiological data was taken into account, the decision was taken to proportionally balance the number of self financing and AMC Participants, as well as Participants across all 6 WHO regions,” the WHO Country Representative, said.

Speaking, the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuiab, explained that some factors  were considered in allocating the small quantity of the 320,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine to Covax countries.

 These, he said, included the mortality rates from COVID-19, the number of new cases, the trend in the number of cases, the population of countries and the availability of the appropriate Cold Chain equipment. 

Shuaib noted that countries such as South Africa which received the Pfizer allocation have the new strain of the COVID-19 virus, the highest mortality rates and is also struggling to contain transmission.

“Furthermore, giving smaller countries such as Cape Verde and Rwanda few doses of the Pfizer vaccine would have a larger public health impact considering their population size.

“100,000 doses to Nigeria, we have all agreed would have been a drop in the ocean.

“So, it is a welcome development that we are receiving 16m doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine to replace the Pfizer vaccine in the same month of February.

“The 16m doses will invariably help us reach more of our population and is suited to our existing cold chain system.” 

He disclosed that Nigeria has the capacity and well equipped Ultra Cold Chain equipment that is able to store over 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine if these were brought to Nigeria, insisting that: “So we are ready for any type of vaccine that is allocated to us.” 

He assured that the  President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government was determined and committed to acquiring the COVID-19 vaccines that are safe, effective and available for deployment. 

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