The World Health Organisation-led COVAX global initiative has disqualified Nigeria for the Pfizer vaccines due to the country’s inability to meet the standard storage requirement.
WHO’s COVAX global initiative expects countries to meet up the standard requirement of being able to store the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius.
The latest development is a setback to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government that had stated that it was expected to receive 100,000 doses through the COVAX initiative.
The initiative was set up to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of their income level.
However, the Director, WHO, African Region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti who spoke at a virtual conference on Friday, said Nigeria failed to make the cut.
Moeti revealed that only four African countries were shortlisted out of the 13 that applied for the vaccine.
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 to 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 waste a single dose.”
Recall that the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, had dismissed the report by the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Prof Babatunde Salako, that Nigeria lacks enough space to store the Pfizer vaccines.
Nigeria was expected to receive the vaccines because it ranks 6th in the list of most affected countries behind South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Ethiopia in that order.
Two of these countries, Egypt and Morocco have already purchased and started distributing the vaccines while South Africa already procured the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.