According to Public Health Epidemiologist and WHO Representative, Kazadi Mulombo, Nigeria as a member state of the COVAX facility can not be disqualified from accessing an approved vaccine for their population.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said Nigeria failed to be shortlisted for the Pfizer vaccines following the country’s inability to meet the storing requirement standard of -70 degrees Celsius.
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.
However, Nigeria had already been allocated 1,872,000 AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines as seen in the country-by-country vaccine distribution forecast released on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, World Health Organization, and UNICEF. The vaccine is due for arrival at the end of the month according to Moeti.
Why Nigeria Would Be Supplied AstraZeneca-Oxford Vaccine
The Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Prof Babatunde Salako, had previously told the media that there was not enough space at the moment to store the Pfizer vaccines at the required temperature, while the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib countered Salako’s report, saying Nigeria had the capacity to store the vaccine.
It might be that the contrary reports could be a valid reason for WHO to approve supplies for a brand of vaccine that can be easily managed by the country to avoid the wastage of the life-saving liquid, while also allowing the country prepare adequately for other brands of the vaccine that require specific conditions like the Pfizer vaccine.
Matshidiso Moeti made this known in her statement: “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.”
Reports have confirmed that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines do not need to be stored in a cold facility hence it is well suited for supply in COVAX member countries like Nigeria.
Moeti said, “Nearly 90 million of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could start arriving on the continent later this month. This is subject to the WHO listing the vaccine for emergency use. The review is ongoing and its outcome is expected very soon.”
She said the initial phase of 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines would support countries to immunise three per cent of the African population most in need of protection, including health workers and other vulnerable groups in the first half of 2021.