Nigeria expects to receive 100, 000 doses of the Pfizer- BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by early February, 2021. This hint was dropped by the head of the Primary Health Care Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, during a tour of cold storage facilities with journalists in Abuja.
According to Shuaib, Nigerian will be given the vaccines through the COVAX programme backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) aimed at lending support to nations in the fight against the dreaded virus that has taken over 2 million lives since its outbreak in Wuhan, China in early 2020.
He further disclosed that the country was in contact with Russia and India and discussing the procurement of the vaccines, adding that there was a special preference for vaccines that are less dependent on cooling facilities.
“Our plan now is not to over-invest on ultra-cold equipment for vaccines like that of Pfizer vaccines, but go for vaccines that need less cooling facilities,” Shuaib said.
“We are currently engaged in talks with Russia and India to get more vaccines,” Shuaib said, restating the target of vaccinating 70% of Nigeria’s 200 million inhabitants within the next two years.
Storage specifications for the Pfizer vaccine stipulate that it must be stored at temperatures of around -70 degrees Celsius (-112°F) before being sent to distribution centres in specially designed cool boxes filled with dry ice. Once out of ultra-low temperature storage, it must be kept at 2C to 8C to remain effective for up to five days.
Though some stakeholders and experts have expressed their fears that Nigeria may not be able to store and transport the vaccine at such low temperatures, Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has said his ministry has written to the African Union, requesting for 10 million doses. This is in addition to the N10 billion naira which the federal government has approved for local vaccine production.
On Tuesday, co-chair of the World Health Organisation’s pandemic review panel and former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, expressed dissatisfaction with Africa’s vaccine roll out plans which suggests that slots may not be available until 2022 or 2023.
Nigeria currently has 113,305 COVID-19 cases with 1,464 deaths, according to the Nigeria Centre of Disease Centre (NCDC). Of the lot, 91,200 people have been treated and have recovered from the virus.