Contrary to some media reports, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says about 16 million AstraZeneca doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been received by the Nigerian Government.
In all, 88 million vaccines are allocated to Africa by WHO which denied the disqualification any country in Africa from accessing COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility.
It said the organization was committed to supporting all countries to access the vaccines as quickly as possible.
The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulomboo, disclosed this at a joint press conference with the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, in Abuja, on Saturday.
“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.
“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,”he told a clutch of reporters.
Mulomboo explained: “In addition to the Astra Zeneca doses, there is an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine available through COVAX.
“The 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.”
On the submissions so far received from Africa, he 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.
“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 achieved 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.”
Also addressing the briefing, the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Shuaib said the explanation became “necessary in order to ensure that just a few of us do not bring our country to ridicule.”
“As clearly stated by the WHO Regional Director, 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.
” These 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.
”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.
”Furthermore, 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 16m doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine to replace the Pfizer vaccine in the same month of February. The 16m doses will invariably help us reach more of our population and is suited to our existing cold chain system.
”Many of you were with us at the National Strategic Cold store to physically see the ultra cold chain equipment that we have.
“This 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 stressed.
“| want to assure all Nigerians that the Federal Government under the leadership of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari 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 COVID19 using the non-pharmaceutical interventions and the vaccines when they become available,” Shuaib said.