Okonjo-Iweala Worried Over Nigeria’s Reliance On Developed Countries For COVI-19 Vaccines

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Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The reliance of Africa countries on developed nations for COVID vaccine, has become a source of concern to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as she revealed that the continent’s 90 per-cent of vaccines and pharmaceuticals was imported.

Speaking virtually at this year’s National Diaspora Day celebration with the theme: “Diaspora Integration for National Peace and Development” organised by Nigeria in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) in Abuja, Sunday, the director-general said it was necessary for the continent to create a roadmap to boost its capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

She noted that Nigerian could produce its own vaccines, adding that two Nigerians in the diaspora had developed vaccines.

Said the WTO DG: “I am quite worried and that is why we tried to bring these CEOs of the major manufacturing companies from Moderna to Pfizer to AstraZeneca, J&J, the Chinese one and now Russia also. They have told us all the numbers and how they are trying to increase production.

“The vaccine volume is actually increasing. In June, they had 1.1 billion doses more vaccines produced in the world, 45 per cent more than the amount in May. That’s the good news. The bad news is that most of those doses ended up in the developed countries and the vaccine inequity continues and that is why we are trying to work with them (vaccine producers) to change the story.

“We understand that COVAX where I was one of the founding members is being to do better. It will be able to send more vaccines. It has already sent 130 million doses to developing countries but it was supposed to have done about 500 million by now.

“So hopefully this will happen this summer, July-August, so that will improve things a little. But what we are trying to do is to say let us not be dependent on other people all the time.

“We cannot as a continent continue to import 99 percent of our vaccines and 90 percent of our pharmaceuticals. What we are now pushing is for them to develop that industry in African.

“And the AU ACDC is working very hard and in our country the minister of health, the CDC have been working very hard to also see that we can attract some of these companies. We can even develop our own vaccines, two Nigerians in the diaspora I hear have developed vaccines which they are experimenting now. So that is the right direction”.

Okonjo-Iweala also advocated for Nigerians in the diaspora to be allowed to vote, saying that they contributed a lot as diaspora remittances.

Added she: “Nigerians in the Diaspora must be allowed to vote, they are contributing a lot, and if they are sending over 20 billion as remittances every one why can’t we vote? Even if we are not sending anything we are still Nigerians and we deserve to vote”.

Ibrahim Oloriegbe, chairman, senate committee on health, noted that the national assembly had the necessary support to enable Nigeria produce its own COVID-19 vaccine, adding that N10 billion had been earmarked for local production of COVID-19 vaccine in the 2020 budget for COVID-19.

Said he: “I want to assure everyone that we have worked on the issue of Nigeria manufacturing it’s own vaccines. I want to assure us that as at the national assembly we have provided all the necessary support for that to become a reality.

“In the COVID-19 budget in the 2020 budget, we had provided N10 billion for local production of vaccines. That money was provided for in the 2020 budget which shows that Nigeria has actually prepared”.

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