The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday said 16 million doses of Astra Zeneca Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine have been allocated to Nigeria.
WHO Country Representative, Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulomboo, spoke in Abuja at a joint news conference with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
Mulomboo also reacted to the report that Nigeria was disqualified from getting COVID-19 vaccines, explaining the reason Nigeria did not access COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility.
He said Nigeria could not benefit from the first phase of the supply because the demand for the initial allocation of 1.2 million was high and only 18 countries, including four in Africa, got the vaccines.
The WHO Nigeria country representative said all countries are expected to start accessing the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines by the end of February, adding that the vaccine is under review by WHO for Emergency Use Listing and the outcome is expected soon.
He said of the 88 million AstraZeneca doses allocated to Africa for the first phase, Nigeria has the largest allocation.
He said: “In addition to the doses, there is an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine available through COVAX. 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. ”
Dr Mulombo explained that on the African continent, as of the 18 January deadline, 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.
“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 achieve 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,” he added.
The Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib said 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, as stated by the WHO Regional Director.
He said, “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.”
Dr. Faisal said it was 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 16milliin 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.”
First published in Daily Trust