The World Health Organization (WHO) has removed Nigeria from the list of countries that would receive the Pfizer and BioNTech approved COVID-19 vaccines due to its inability to meet the standard requirement of storing the vaccines.
The Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Matshidiso Moeti, while speaking at a press briefing on COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Africa, on Thursday, said only four out of 13 interested African countries were shortlisted to receive the vaccines through COVAX, a co-financing public-private facility.
Ms Moeti said the countries are Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa & Tunisia. 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.
“In addition, around 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries: Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa & Tunisia,” Ms Moeti said.
“Deliveries are also expected later in February.”
She, however, said countries that failed to make the Pfizer list could get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine later in the month.
“Nearly 90 million of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could start arriving on the continent later this month. This is subject to the WHO listing the vaccine for emergency use,” Ms Moeti said.
Most African countries, including Nigeria, are banking on benefitting from the COVAX programme, which was set up to divide over a billion doses of vaccines across 92 low-and middle-income countries.
The facility promised access to vaccines for up to 20 per cent of participating countries’ population with an initial supply beginning in the first quarter of the year to immunise three per cent of their populations.
“The #COVAX Facility is aiming to reach at least 20 per cent of Africans, which will require delivery of up to 600 million doses this year,” Ms Moeti said.
Through the COVAX initiative, the Nigerian government had in December announced that it would receive an initial 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and bioNtech vaccines by January. It later announced that the vaccines will no longer arrive until February.