The World Health Organisation says it supports Nigeria and other African countries in their bid to access COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO.
Speaking at a press conference organised in Abuja by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, the WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said, “The World Health Organisation 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.
“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.”
The public health epidemiologist reiterated that out of all the 88 million AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine doses allocated to African countries for the first phase, Nigeria has received by far the largest allocation, with 16 million doses.
He further disclosed that in addition to the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine doses, there would be an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine available through COVAX.
“On the African continent, as of the 18th January, 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,” he stated.
In the same vein, Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, announced 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.
The NPHCDA director identified the factors as mortality rates from COVID-19, number of new cases, trend in the number of cases, population of countries and 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, highest mortality rates and is struggling to contain transmission.
“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,” Shuaib said.
While observing that 100,000 doses appeared to be a drop in the ocean, he saw the 16 million doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine put in place to replace the Pfizer vaccine in the same month of February as a welcome development.
“The 16m doses will invariably help us reach more of our population. Many of you were at the National Strategic Cold Store to physically see the ultra cold chain equipment.
“The visit was conducted in the spirit of transparency and accountability on the part of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Federal Ministry of Health.
“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.
“The PTF on COVID-19 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,” he stated.
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