By Paul Ajayi
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Paris, France, urged world leaders and global health institutions to follow a regime of enabling access to the COVID-19 vaccines, admonishing that sidelining countries in terms of reach will undermine the entire effort for safety.
Delivering a keynote statement at the Paris Peace Forum (PPF), President Buhari said export restrictions that encourage needless hoarding of vaccines need to be lifted, while welcoming the pledges by industrialized countries to share vaccines, a statement signed by presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said.
The President said the pledges should be fulfilled in a timely manner, appreciating some countries, like France, that have donated vaccines to developing countries.
“Resolving supply-chain constraints would require better coordination within the manufacturing process; and between manufacturers and end-users,” he said.
“There is a clear need for the expansion of vaccine production capacity in Africa. In this regard, African countries already have a roadmap: the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA) developed in 2007 by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) on the basis of an African Union Summit decision taken in 2005.
“Licensing agreements should be reached with pharmaceutical companies for the transfer of intellectual property and technology to support the production of vaccines in Africa. If global vaccination is the only way to end the COVID-19 pandemic, then all stakeholders must act in a coordinated manner to plug the vaccine supply gap in Africa.”
President Buhari, in a remark focused on “Lessons Learned from the Covid-19 Pandemic: The Importance of Coordination Among All Actors for Vaccine Delivery,” said the coordination for distribution had to be total and the objective had to be the same: to deliver vaccines to the world.
“The state of vaccine delivery across the world leaves much to be desired,’’ he said, “We have a situation where some countries are giving booster third doses for their citizens when millions across the world, especially in the developing world, are yet to receive a single dose.’’
“Let us compare vaccination rates to give an idea of the dimension of the problem. According to recent data, as of 4th November, 2021. 91.3 doses of vaccine had been given for every 100 persons across the world. On the same date, however, only 14.7 doses of vaccine per 100 persons had been administered in Africa – a clear case of lopsidedness. According to Bloomberg, countries with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated ten times faster than those with the lowest income.
“As of 5th November 2021, Africa had fully vaccinated 77 million persons, amounting to just 6 per cent of the continent’s population. By comparison, 60 percent of the European Union population had been fully vaccinated by September 2021.
“This massive gap between vaccine requirements in Africa and vaccine availability is undermining the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic on the continent. Even if Africa were to receive the 600 million doses of vaccine expected to be delivered to the continent by the end of 2021 under the COVAX arrangement there would still be a considerable shortfall when compared to the population of the continent which currently stands at 1.383 billion,’’ he added.
Quoting the World Health Organization, the President said even the planned COVAX deliveries to Africa had been cut by 25 per cent due to supply shortages and export bans.
“This is a major setback for Africa, where it is estimated that COVID-19 vaccine deliveries have to increase from around 20 million doses a month to an average of 150 million doses a month if the target of fully vaccinating 70 per cent of its population by September 2022 is to be achieved.
“So, what needs to be done to plug the gap? How can vaccine availability in Africa be boosted? Who needs to do what?’’
The Nigerian leader thanked the President of the Paris Peace Forum, Mr. Pascal Lamy, for the invitation to share thoughts on the importance of coordination among all actors in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.