By Nathan Ohiomokhare
In a joint World Press conference held earlier today in Abuja by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) the WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo has confirmed that WHO has secured 16 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for Nigeria through the COVAX Facility. This is the amount alocated to Nigeria out of the 88 million allocated to Africa.
The Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) explained that the press conference became “necessary in order to ensure that just a few of us do not bring our country to ridicule.”
COVAX received requests 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 Vaccine doses. Demand for the initial allocation of 1.2 million Pfizer vaccine doses was exceptionally high.
Unfortunately, Pfizer has a limited capacity to handle so much demand from so many countries at once so it was not feasible to provide each of these 51 countries with Pfizer doses, amongst several reasons.
As at the 18th of January deadline COVAX received 13 submissions from Africa alone and a multi-agency committee evaluated the proposals of which 9 were recommended as ready to deploy the Pfizer vaccine including Nigeria.
The WHO also emphasised that it had not disqualified any country in Africa from accessing COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility and reiterated its aim to support all countries to access Covid-19 vaccines as quickly as possible.
Dr Mulombo was reacting to the rumours of disqualification of Nigeria from access to COVID 19 vaccines. He said “Currently, all countries on the continent are expected to start accessing the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines by the end of February.” adding that “WHO 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.”
Epidemiological data was taken into consideration, the decision was taken to proportionally balance the number of self-financing and AMC Participants, as well as Participants across all 6 WHO regions. Other factors taken into consideration were 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.
Countries like South Africa received more of the Pfizer allocation because they have the new strain of the COVID-19 virus, has the highest mortality rates and is struggling to contain transmission.
Nigeria has received over 18% of the total doses of the AstraZeneca Vaccine allocated to Africa making the country the largest recipient of the Vaccine.
The WHO representative states that the AstraZeneca Vaccine is under review by WHO for emergency use listing. In Addition there is also an inittial limited volume of Pfizer Vaccines available through the COVAX facility.
The NPHCDA has demonstrated capacity for storage and distrubution of the Covid-19 Vaccines on a National scale. This is as demonstrated in their new National Strategic Cold Store (NSCS) which has an Ultra Cold Chain Equipment (UCCE). These were comissioned under the oversight of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) and Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH). The Ultra Cold Chain equipment can store over 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine at recomended temperatures.
The NPHCDA has categoricaly stated that it has the capacity to store any type of vaccine that is allocated to Nigeria.