The World Health Organisation in Abuja on Saturday said it had not disqualified any African country from accessing COVID–19 vaccines through the COVAX facility.
The organisation said while it was supporting all countries to access vaccines as quickly as possible, Nigeria has received the largest allocation with 16 million doses out of the 88 million AstraZeneca doses allocated to Africa for the first phase.
The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulomboo, made the clarification during a joint press conference with the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, on the purported disqualification of Nigeria from access to the COVID–19 vaccines.
He said: “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.
“Currently, 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 the 88 million AstraZeneca doses allocated to African countries for the first phase, Nigeria has received by far the largest allocation, with 16 million doses.
“In addition to the Astra Zeneca 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.
“On the Africa continent, as of the 18 January deadline, COVAX received 13 submissions and a multi-agency committee evaluated the proposals of which 9 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 achieved 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.”
Shuaib said the clarification became necessary “in order to ensure that just a few of us do not bring our country to ridicule.”