WHO debunks rumour of disqualifying Nigeria from global COVID-19 vaccine

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) Saturday debunked the rumour going round that it has disqualified Nigeria a from accessing the Pfizer led COVID-19 vaccine.

WHO said it has not dissqualify any country in Africa from accessing COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, but rather its supporting all countries to access vaccines as quickly as possible to tackle the challenges of the pandemic.

Representative of WHO in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulomboo who was speaking at a joint press conference with the National Primary Health Development Agency (NPHCDA) 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. 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.”

Dr. Walter said 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 while also saying 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 Executive Director and Chief Executive Office, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib while speaking at the emergency press briefing in clarification of the disqualification of Nigeria from accessing the vaccine said, there are a number of factors that were considered in allocating the small quantity of the 320,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine to COVAX countries.

He listed the factors to 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 adding that 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 transmission.

He further said 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 16million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine to replace the Pfizer vaccine in the same month of February.

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

Dr. Faisal added that many were we the Agency at the National Strategic Cold store to physically see the ultra cold chain equipment that was on ground and the 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).

“These Ultra Cold Chain equipment would have been able to store over 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine if
these were brought to Nigeria. So we are ready for any type of vaccine that is allocated to us.”

He assured all Nigerians that the Federal Government under the leadership of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari is determined and committed to acquiring the COVIO-19 vaccines that are safe, effective and available for deployment

“The PTF on COVID19 will continue to provide credible and up to date information on our journey towards controlling the spread of COVID-19 using the non-pharmaceutical Interventions and the vaccines when they become available.”

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