WHO declines Nigeria, eight others bid for Pfizer vaccine

World Health Organisation on Saturday overlooked Nigeria in shortlisting African countries to receive Pfizer vaccines under the COVAX global initiative.

Nigeria failed to make the shortlist because it lacked the ability to store the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius.

Speaking at a virtual press conference which was attended by Saturday PUNCH, however, the Director, WHO, African Region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said only four African countries were shortlisted for the Pfizer vaccine out of the 13 that applied.

Moeti said WHO could not risk the Pfizer vaccines being wasted.

She said, “Around 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries – Cape Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia. This vaccine has received WHO Emergency Use Listing but requires countries to be able to store and distribute doses at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

“To access an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine, countries were invited to submit proposals. Thirteen African countries submitted proposals and were evaluated 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.

“This announcement allows countries to fine-tune their planning for COVID-19 immunisation campaigns. We urge African nations to ramp up readiness and finalise their national vaccine deployment plans. Regulatory processes, cold chain systems and distribution plans need to be in place to ensure vaccines are safely expedited from ports of entry to delivery. We can’t afford to waste a single dose.”

However, the WHO regional director said countries that failed to make the Pfizer list could get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine later in the month although it has not yet been endorsed by the health organisation.

Recall that Checkout Magazine had reported the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Prof Babatunde Salako, to have said that there is not enough space at the moment to store the Pfizer vaccines at that temperature.

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