The World Health Organisation (WHO) has explained why Nigeria was not included among the countries to receive the Pfizer vaccine in Africa.
Regional Director of the WHO, Matshidiso Moeti, had said only four out of 13 interested African countries were shortlisted to receive the Pfizer vaccines through COVAX, a mechanism backed by WHO for distributing vaccines to the developing world.
Moeti who spoke at a press briefing on COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Africa on Thursday, said the countries are Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa & Tunisia.
She noted that they were picked following evaluations 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.
But speaking during a briefing on Saturday in Abuja, WHO Country Representative, Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu, said the global health body did not disqualify Nigeria for any reason.
He explained that COVAX decided to replace the initial 100,000 doses of Pfizer with 16 million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine.
He stated that issues around population, fatalities from COVID-19 were some of the considerations the Selection Committee used in choosing which country received which vaccine.
Alemu revealed that Nigeria will receive the Pfizer vaccine as supplies increases, adding that the Astrazeneca vaccine, which is more in supply, will meet more of the needs in Nigeria.
In January, the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Babatunde Salako, in an interview with Punch Newspaper, said the country does not have enough freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccines must be stored at the ultra-cold temperature of -70°C.
But days after Salako’s interview, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib gave journalists a tour of the National Strategic Cold Store in Abuja.
During the tour, he said Nigeria has the capacity to store up to 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
After Moeti’s Thursday’s disclosure that Nigeria was not among the countries to receive the Pfizer vaccine, news media reported that Nigeria had been disqualified from the process due to, among other reasons, lack of the required storage capacity.
“WHO is part of Covax facility and can never disqualify a Member State from accessing an approved vaccine for their population,” a WHO representative Kazadi Mulombo, tweeted on Saturday. “I call upon members of the press in Nigeria and globally to contribute to fighting misinformation.”