WHO clarifies vaccine availability for Nigeria, other African countries

The World Health Organisation (WHO) The World Health Organisation (WHO)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Saturday that Nigeria and other African countries were not barred from accessing COVID-19 vaccines through the Global Assess Facility, COVAX.

COVAX, a WHO-backed programme, was set up to divide a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines across 92 low and middle-income countries.

Speaking at a press briefing on Saturday, WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Walter Mulombo, said the international health agency is supporting all countries to access vaccines as quickly as possible.

Mr Mulombo's statement was a response to the reactions that trailed an earlier announcement by the WHO that only four of 13 African countries were qualified to receive the first batch of the Pfizer and bioNtech vaccines. He said the WHO was committed to helping all African countries get COVID-19 vaccines.

"WHO has not disqualified any country in Africa from accessing COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, but rather is supporting all countries to access vaccines as quickly as possible," Mr Mulombo said.

"Currently, all countries on the continent are expected to start accessing the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines by the end of February. The vaccine is under review by WHO for Emergency Use Listing and the outcome is expected soon."

PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how the Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Matshidiso Moeti, said only four of 13 African countries were shortlisted to receive 320,000 doses of Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines. Nigeria did not make this list.

Ms Moeti said the countries – Cape Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia – 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.

She, however, said countries that failed to make the Pfizer first list could get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines later in the month.

Source: Nike Adebowale