WHO excludes Nigeria, eight others from global vaccine bid
At a time Nigeria’s vital statistics in corruption perception and inflow of investments from abroad is growing in the negative degrees, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dealt her reputation a bad body blow with the COVAX global initiative dropping her from the list of countries to benefit from Pfizer vaccines.
Reason: She would waste her consignment because she does not have the ability to meet the standard requirement of being able to store the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius.
As expected, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is rubbing salt on the embarrassing injury blaming the All Progressives Congress-led adminstration for the bad news.
It says the reported exclusion vindicates our stand that the APC-led administration is a total failure.
The Federal Government announced weeks ago it was benefiting from 100,000 doses through the COVAX initiative, established to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level.
The bad news to Nigeria was delivered at a virtual press conference by the Director, WHO, African Region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said only four African countries were shortlisted for the vaccine out of the 13 that applied.
Moeti words: “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 immunization campaigns. We urge African nations to ramp up readiness and finalize 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.”
But there is a ray of hope as the country can benefit from the Oxford AstroZeneca vaccine which does not require the ultra-cold temperature to be stored. This vaccine, however, has not received the WHO endorsement for emergency use.
Recall that the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Prof Babatunde Salako, was quoted as saying there was no capacity for storing the Pfizer vaccine, but almost immediately, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, countered him saying the country could store it taking journalists on a tour of its facility in Abuja.
In its statement, PDP describes as shameful and unpardonable that a nation as important as Nigeria is being excluded from COVID-19 vaccine intervention of the World Health Organization just because the government, in its incompetence and alleged corruption, was not able to provide the minimum standard requirement of vaccine storage at the requisite -70 degrees Celsius, despite the billions of naira it claims had gone into the COVID-19 effort.
PDP adds: “This embarrassing situation confirms our position that the APC administration is completely incapable of carrying out simple governance tasks, which is the reason our nation is in her present social and economic dire straits.
“Only last month, our party alerted the nation and tasked the Buhari administration on its lethargic approach to the issue of COVID-19 vaccine and other therapeutics; a caution which was dismissed by the APC and the Buhari administration.
“Nigerians can now see that the claims of commitment by the APC administration are mere media hypes that add no value beyond announcement of figures of infected persons, deaths, recoveries, discharges and issues of local protocols without decisive effort towards epidemiology, researches, production of equipment, therapeutics and other technical requirements, such as vaccine storage to stave off the pandemic in our country.
“This development has also confirmed our insistence that the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 is a mere circus group of incompetent politicians, and has no capacity to tackle the spread of the pandemic in our country.
“It also validates the widespread call for the dissolution of the PTF.
“It is indeed sad that because of the corruption and incompetence of the APC administration, our dear nation, which was once a clear continental leader and global competitor in all fields, has fallen so low that it cannot provide simple vaccine storage in a time of pandemic.
“Against this ugly backdrop, our party restates our call for immediate dissolution of the PTF on COVID-19 to pave way for a concerted private sector driven effort in the fight against the pandemic, since the Buhari administration has failed the nation.
“Our party urges all well-meaning Nigerians in the public health, pharmaceutical, manufacturing and logistic sub-sectors to immediately rally to rescue our nation from this horrible situation.
“The PDP also calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to accept the ineffectiveness of his administration and seek help from more capable hands as well as adopt the PDP proactive model in fighting the dreaded Ebola Virus disease, as a sure measure to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.”