The World Health Organisation (WHO) has disqualified Nigeria in the first round of supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said Nigeria was disqualified based on certain criteria including the capacity to store it at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
Nigeria had submitted a proposal to be supplied the vaccine being donated by COVAX, the global alliance against COVID-19.
But the major concern has been its lack of storage capacity, although the country had reportedly acquired three ultra-cold freezers in anticipation of the vaccine’s arrival.
The country failed to make any provision in the 2021 budget to fund the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines.
But Moeti said in a statement that only four African countries were captured in the first supply of 320,000 vaccines out of the 13 that expressed interest.
“In addition, around 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries: Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia. Deliveries are also expected later on in February.
“To access an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine, countries were invited to submit proposals. Thirteen African countries expressed an interest in participating in the initiative, and their proposals were evaluated based on current mortality rates, new cases and trends and capacities to deliver this vaccine, including to store it at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
“I have to say that this was a challenging process as we know all countries want to start vaccinating their populations. The supplies were limited but we are glad that we will have a number of countries start and we look forward to working with the other countries to expand this vaccine delivery,” she said.
The disqualification deals a heavy blow on Nigeria’s plan to vaccinate its citizens against COVID-19 which has already killed 1,640 out of the 138,000 infected.
Recently, Faisal Shuaib, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said the country is anticipating the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine “in the coming weeks.”
The COVAX facility (which is the vaccine component of the ACT Accelerator) has informed African countries of the first allocations of the COVID-19 vaccines. Nearly 90 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could start arriving on the continent later this month.
This is subject to WHO listing the vaccine for emergency use. The review is ongoing, and its outcome is expected very soon.
The doses would help countries reach three per cent of their populations in the first half of 2021, targeting the most-at-risk groups, especially frontline health workers. As production capacities increase, the COVAX facility is aiming to reach at least 20% of Africans, which will require delivery of up to 600 million doses during this year.