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WHO counters report that Nigeria, others disqualified from receiving COVID-19 vaccines




A representative of the World Health Organisation ( WHO) has countered reports by some sections of the media that the global health body has disqualified Nigeria and eight other countries from COVID-19 vaccine bid.

Walter Mulombo, WHO country representative to Nigeria, countered the reports in a tweet on Saturday morning.

Mulombo wrote on his official Twitter handle that contrary to reports, the WHO would not disqualify a member state from accessing an approved vaccine for its population.

“WHO is part of Covax facility and can never disqualify a member state from accessing an approved vaccine for their population. I call upon members of the press in Nigeria and globally to contribute to fighting misinformation,” Mulombo posted.

Charity Warigon, communicator officer for the WHO in Nigeria, in a statement sent to The ICIR, said Nigeria was among the 51 our of 72 countries considered by the review committee as ‘ready’ to receive the COVAX vaccine.

Warigon stated that out of the reviewed 51 countries, however,  only 18 countries in total were finally chosen to receive the initial Pfizer doses due to the high demand for the initial 1.2 million doses of the vaccine.

Warigon noted that all countries on the African continent were expected to start accessing the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines by the end of February as the vaccine was under review by WHO for Emergency Use Listing, with the outcome expected soon.

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However, she added that out of the 88 million AstraZeneca doses allocated to African countries for the first phase, Nigeria had received 16 million, which was the largest allocation among all other countries.

Early Saturday morning, some Nigerian newspapers, including The Punch and Sahara Reporters, had reported that the WHO-led COVAX global initiative failed to shortlist Nigeria 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.

The report stated that Matshidiso Moeti, WHO director of African Region, during a virtual press conference, had said only four African countries were shortlisted for the Pfizer vaccine out of the 13 that applied.

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Moeti was quoted to have said that only Cape Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia met the requirements to access the WHO emergency use listing.

“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,” part of the report had said.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), had said in January that Nigeria would receive 100, 000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines through the WHO-led COVAX scheme by the end of the month.

As of the time of filing this report, Nigeria had recorded 137,654 positive cases of COVID-19 with 111,639 recoveries. The number of cases and deaths has seen a substantial increase since the second wave of the deadly virus, with 1,641 total reported deaths.

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Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via labolade@icirnigeria.org, on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

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