WHO reiterates commitment to ensure Nigeria gets COVID-19 vaccines in February

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reiterated its commitment toward ensuring that Nigeria gets the vaccines against Coronavirus in February.

Dr Walter Kazadi, WHO Country Representative, made the assertion at a press briefing organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and WHO on Saturday in Abuja.

Kazadi said that Nigeria and other Africa countries were not disqualified from accessing the COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility.

According to him, WHO is rather supporting all countries to access the vaccines as quick 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.

“Of all the 88 million AstraZeneca forded allocated to African countries for the first phase, Nigeria has received by far the largest allocation, with 16 million doses,” he said.

The WHO representative said that as at Jan.18, 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.

In his remarks, Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of NPHCDA, said that a number of factors 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.

“The 100,000 doses to Nigeria, we all agreed would have been a drop in the ocean.

“So, it is a welcome development that we are receiving 16 million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine to replace the Pfizer vaccine in the same month of February,” Shuaib said.

According to him, the 16 million doses will invariably help us to reach more of our population and is suited to our existing cold chain system.

He said that the country’s National Strategic Cold store equipment would be able to store over 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, if these were brought to the country.

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“So, we are ready for any type of vaccine that is allocated to us.

“I want to assure all Nigerians that the Federal Government, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, is determined and committed to acquiring the COVID-19 vaccines that are safe, effective and available for deployment,” Shuaib said.

He said that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 would continue to provide credible and up to date information on its journey toward controlling the spread of COVID-19.

“This will be achievable by using the non-pharmaceutical interventions and the vaccines when they become available,” the agency executive director said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the agencies were reacting to the news making round that WHO disqualified Nigeria from COVID-19 vaccines based on the country’s inability to meet the standard requirement of being able to store the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius.

Earlier, the country was hoping to get 42 million COVID-19 vaccines to cover one fifth of its population through the global COVAX scheme,

The initial vaccines would come as part of Nigeria’s plan to inoculate 40 per cent of the population this year, and another 30 per cent in 2022, with 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.