When the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, announced last week that the COVID-19 vaccines would arrive Nigeria before the end of February, several Nigerians were hopeful that there was light at the end of the tunnel. But it appears their hopes may be dashed, due to the latest news from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
During a virtual press conference hosted by the global health body and shared on its Twitter handle, Nigeria was not shortlisted for the Pfizer vaccines by the WHO-led COVAX global initiative. This may be due to an allegation that the continent’s largest economy is unable to meet the standard requirement of being able to store the vaccines at the required 70 degrees Celsius.
At the event, Director, WHO, African Region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, clearly stated that only four African countries were shortlisted for the Pfizer vaccine out of the 13 that applied.
To access an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine, countries were invited to submit proposals. 13 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.
She said, “In addition, around 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries: Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa & Tunisia. Deliveries are also expected later in February.”
Moeti emphasised that WHO could not risk the Pfizer vaccines being wasted. According to her, the vaccine has received WHO Emergency Use Listing but requires countries to be able to store and distribute doses at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
“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,” she added
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