After the World Health Organization, through a publication, announced that Nigeria amongst some African countries was not shortlisted for Pfizer vaccine, fears gripped both health care professionals and citizens.
The reason, according to the WHO was that Nigeria does not have the requisite storage facilities for the vaccines, which are required to be stored at very low temperature – as low as minus 70 degrees Celsius in case of the Pfizer vaccine.
While WHO has through its country representative, Dr. Walter Mulombo, issued a statement to the contrary, it is hardly news that Nigeria does lack the facilities and strategy required to deliver vaccines to all its citizens.
Research has shown that energy security and access are very important to the healthcare industry. In one of its reports, WHO confirmed that delivering the vaccines to the last mile user in African countries will prove very challenging, particularly because of infrastructure and power deficit.
With almost 150, 000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and about 1,600 deaths; there is a need to act fast. Instead of wallowing in self-pity of being removed form the list, Nigeria should be working tirelessly to put the vaccine cold chain infrastructure in place and become vaccine-ready.
We could learn from Rwanda. This country has set up functioning climate-friendly cold chains for vaccine delivery. With grid power getting to only just 40% of Nigerians, off-grid electrification and cooling is key to beating the country’s COVID problem and deploying the vaccines effectively. It would be counterintuitive too if the off-grid solution is one that adds to environmental pollution.
By WHO’s statistics, air pollution kills up to 7 million people worldwide every year, so any solution for storing vaccines should be targeted at also reducing emissions. Apart from Renewable Energy (RE) options being cleaner, they are also efficient and more affordable than fossil fuel alternatives.
The government should also roll out strategic and effective plans to deploy renewable energy (particularly solar) solutions in form of solar fridges and freezers to healthcare centres up to the last mile. Sufficient funding should also be deployed towards scaling innovations around renewable energy cooling technologies to drive COVID-19 recovery.
There is no escaping massive RE funding and support if Nigeria is to achieve vaccination and recovery for its population, so we might as well start now.