From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Fred Ezeh and Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) has dismissed reports that the world health body has disqualified Nigeria from accessing the first round of supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
WHO Representative to Nigeria Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo made the clarification at a Joint Press Conference with Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, to address the COVID vaccine misinformation by some newspapers on Saturday.
According to him, WHO neither disqualified Nigeria nor any other African country from accessing the COVID-19 vaccines but rather is supporting all countries to access vaccines as quickly as possible.
He added that all African countries are expected to start accessing vaccines by the end of February contrary to earlier information that the vaccines would arrive in Nigeria early February for administering.
He said Nigeria received the largest allocation of 16 million doses out of the 88 million AstraZeneca vaccine allocated to Africa.
‘All countries on the continent are expected to start accessing the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines by the end of February 2021. The vaccine is under review by WHO for Emergency Use Listing and the outcome is expected soon,’ Mulombo said
‘Of all the 88 million AstraZeneca forded allocated to African countries for the first phase, Nigeria has received by far the largest allocation, with 16 million doses,’ he disclosed.
The WHO country rep added that the African continent, as of January 18, 2021, COVAX received 13 submissions and a multi-agency committee evaluated the proposals of which nine were recommended as ready to deploy the Pfizer vaccine including Nigeria.
In his remarks, Dr Shuaib said that there were a number of factors that were considered in allocating the small quantity of the 320,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine to COVAX countries.
‘These include 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.
‘It is clear that countries such as South Africa which received the Pfizer allocation has the new strain of the COVID-19 virus, and has the highest mortality rates and is struggling to contain transmission.
‘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. 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 16 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to replace the Pfizer vaccine in the same month of February. 16 million doses will invariably help us reach more of our population and is suited to our existing cold chain system.”
Dr Shuaib said that the country’s National Strategic Cold store equipment would be able to store over 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine if these were brought to the country.
‘So, we are ready for any type of vaccine that is allocated to us. I want to assure all Nigerians that the Federal Government is determined and committed to acquiring the COVID-19 vaccines that are safe, effective and available for deployment,’ he noted.
The ES NPHCDA said that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 would continue to provide credible and up to date information on its journey towards controlling the spread of COVID19 using the non-pharmaceutical interventions and the vaccines when they become available.
The National Incident Manager of the PTF, Dr Mukhtar Muhammad, in his reaction said the report was false and misleading alarm.
He explained that rather than disqualification, what just happened was rather a renegotiation of the stock of vaccines and doses to be released to Nigeria.