President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday in Brussels, Belgium, welcomed the designation of Nigeria as one of the six countries in Africa designated as manufacturing bases for the COVID-19 vaccine, while also calling for collaboration to address the effects of the pandemic.
According to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a statement, with the addition of Nigeria to the four countries earlier approved for the vaccine production on the continent, efforts by the Buhari administration to change the selection that the country considered unrepresentative of the needs, capabilities and population distribution in Africa has thus yielded the desired result.
He stated that in his contribution to the Roundtable On Health Systems And Vaccine Production at the ongoing 6th Europe-Africa Summit, President Buhari said:
“I am delighted to receive the news of the selection of Nigeria among recipients of MRNA Vaccine technology transfer. We shall ensure the best use is made of the opportunity. Nigeria also offers to host the Bio-manufacturing Training hub proposed by World Health Organization (WHO). We commit to providing support to make the hub functional in the shortest possible time.
“Accordingly we are prioritizing the manufacture of vaccines on the African continent and in the sharing and transfer of technology and intellectual property rights. We call on the EU to support the WTO towards the conclusion of negotiations on intellectual property rights’ waiver to ensure that the manufacturing of vaccines can start early in Africa.”
While commending the efforts of the foreign partners in making the Covid-19 vaccine available, he urged them to do more as less than 10 per cent of the African population had gotten the jab, stressing that that situation could negatively affect Africa’s developmental projections.
“We commend the efforts and support of Team Europe for the substantial contribution to the COVAX facility and the EU contribution for Vaccination rollout campaign in Africa. But currently, less than 10% of Africa’s population has been vaccinated, compared to more than 60% total vaccinations in the EU, as at the end of 2021.
“Regrettably, millions of African citizens are yet to receive their first dose of vaccination jabs, while their counterparts in Europe and other parts of the world are bracing up for their third booster shots. When eventually, Africa received about 700 million doses of vaccines before the end of 2021 under the COVAX Facility, it represented a considerable shortfall for a population of 1.383 billion.
“Nigeria strongly believes that these low figures could not only cause a future health crisis, but could negatively impact economic growth and our ability to achieve the African Union Agenda 2063,” the president said.
The Nigerian leader called for a closer collaboration with the EU to tackle the effects of the pandemic on the African continent.
“The severe impact of the pandemic has once again brought to the fore the vulnerabilities of mankind and the weakness of health systems across the world. To mitigate future devastating health pandemics, there is an urgent need for increased funding for healthcare systems in Africa and increased local manufacturing of materials and equipment along the whole value chain. This can happen only with the cooperation that would close the gaps in the health systems on our continent.
“We urge our European partners to focus more on investments targeted at improving the African health systems and production of vaccines. Existing AU frameworks like the New Partnership for African Development and national comparative advantages of some African countries are there to form the basis for such investments,” he added.