Lagos: The World Health Organization (WHO) has assured Nigeria that it will support the country to procure, distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines.
Walter Kazadi Mulomboo, WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, told a press briefing in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Saturday that Nigeria and other Africa countries were not disqualified from accessing COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, the WHO-led initiative for equitable global access to coronavirus vaccines, to meet the urgent vaccination needs of developing countries.
The assurance was a response to rumours that the WHO disqualified Nigeria from COVID-19 vaccines based on the country’s inability to meet the standard requirement of storing the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius.
Senior Nigerian officials said earlier that the country was hoping to get more than 40 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to cover one-fifth of its population through the global COVAX scheme in 2021.
The WHO is supporting all countries to access the vaccines as quickly as possible, Mulomboo told reporters.
According to him, all countries on the continent are expected to start accessing the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine by the end of February, noting that the vaccine is under WHO review for emergency use listing and the outcome is expected soon.
“Of all the 88 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses allocated to African countries for the first phase, Nigeria has received by far the largest allocation, with 16 million doses,” he said.
Also at the press briefing, Faisal Shuaib, director-general of Nigeria’s National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA), said that several factors were considered in allocating the small quantity of vaccines in the initial stage to COVAX countries.
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, Shuaib said.
He said the country’s national strategic cold store equipment is “ready for any type of vaccine that is allocated to us.”
According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, the most populous African country registered 1,588 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 139,242 and total deaths to 1,647.