Nigeria has been disqualified by the World Health Organisation (WHO)-led COVAX global initiative for the Pfizer vaccines following the country’s inability to meet the standard requirement of being able to store the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius.

COVAX failed to shortlist Nigeria among the bidding countries even as the federal government had stated that it was expected to receive 100,000 doses through the COVAX initiative, which was set up to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level.

Nigeria was disqualified alongside eight other African countries while four others, Cape Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia were cleared for the bid.

These were part of the disclosures made during a virtual press conference where the Director, WHO, African Region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said, WHO could not risk the Pfizer vaccines being wasted.

“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,” Moeti stated.

Reacting to the development, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, described the report as fake, saying Nigeria had the capacity to store the vaccines and had taken journalists on a tour of its facility in Abuja.

Nigeria was expected to be on the list of African countries to receive the first set of Pfizer vaccines because of its rate of infection which is now the sixth-highest on the continent.

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