The World Health Organisation-led COVAX global initiative has failed to shortlist Nigeria for the Pfizer vaccines following the country’s inability to meet the standard requirement of being able to store the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius.
This is despite several claims of readiness to receive the first 100,000 dozes by the Nigerian government.
Director, WHO, African Region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, who spoke via video said that only four African countries were shortlisted for the Pfizer vaccine out of the 13 that applied.
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.
“To access an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine, countries were invited to submit proposals. Thirteen 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.
“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.”
Only South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Ethiopia have higher infection rates than Nigeria. But Morocco and Egypt have already independently obtained vaccines and begun distribution while South Africa, which has the highest burden of the disease in Africa, has already procured one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, produced in India but has yet to begin distribution.