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NGO demands equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines

By Frank Ikpefan, Abuja

A non-governmental organisation, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has demanded for an equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines especially in developing countries globally.

The organisation stated that low-income countries, especially Africa nations only received 0.3 per cent of the 1.3 billion COVID-19 vaccines distributed globally.

Country Program Director, AHF Echey Ijezie said this on Wednesday at the unveiling of the Vaccinate Our World (VOW) campaign, adding that despite the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, only developed countries have access to them.

He said AHF initiated the VOW campaign to urge world leaders, public health organisations to ensure that there is equal access to vaccination for COVID-19.

According to him, the low distribution of COVID- 19 vaccines have created a huge disparity between developed countries and developing countries.

“About 1.3 billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide but a large Chuck are administered in developed countries leaving the least developed countries with only 0.3 per cent.

“Until everybody is vaccinated that is when the pandemic will stop,” the country program director of AHF said.

He urged the Federal Government to adopt public health Communication strategy to make Nigerians, especially rural dwellers to accept the vaccines when available.

Ijezie also urged the government to appeal to world leaders, vaccine manufacturers, and public health organisations to protect humanity by providing access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, particularly in lower-income countries like Nigeria.

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“There is a gap that has to be bridged and that gap is between the availability of the vaccine and our own people accepting it which can be done by adopting public health Communication strategies which must be done effectively because if the vaccines are available and people are not coming forward to take it, it’s discouraging,” he said.

In her remarks, Deputy National Coordinator, Association for COVID-19 and beyond (ASCAB) Hauwa Mustapha said vaccination against any disease is a fundamental human right.

“Human right is something that concerns every part of the globe. If you fail to take care of the needs of the southern part of the globe then you will be creating a consequential problem for the north,” she said.

Ms Mustapha however said profit making from vaccines have become a priority for many nations and pharmaceutical company.

She said there is a need to water down the marketisation and profiteering associated with COVID-19 vaccines.

“Pharmaceutical companies were running over themselves trying to be champion because of two things of which profit-making is one,” she said.

Also Speaking, General Secretary, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Martin Egbanubi, who noted that the disire of richest countries to protect themselves leaving vulnerable ones to perish was unacceptable, demanded an increase in production of vaccine in global South.

According to him, the major component of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2030 was to ensure that citizens are living healthy in other to reduce mortality in all ramifications.

Egbanubi said he has noticed cases of discrimination in distribution and administration of vaccines in Nigeria as well as low level of awareness for those in the rural areas.

He advocated for a scenario whereby the federal government will invest heavily in research and development as Nigeria cannot continue to rely on world richest countries in times of emergency.

“We cannot continue to rely on Europe and America to bail us out whenever there is emergency, And we must make sure that the political will is there to drive the process, because if we produce our own vaccine definitely more people will be administered,” he said.

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