Ex-Minister of Finance in Nigeria, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has come out to assure Africans of access to COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months.
In a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, the African Union’s special envoy – Okonjo-Iweala had explained extensively the ongoing plans and bodies set up to ensure the availabilty and distribution of the vaccines to poor communities.
“As long as one person has it in the world, no one is safe. And that is why poorer countries, lower-middle-income countries like Nigeria, need to get it as quickly as possible,” she said.
The Ex-Finance Minister – who is currently part of a special mobilization team to support the African continent in its fight against COVID-19 – was part of a closed door meeting in Abuja on Wednesday with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala explained that the international initiative involved the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI and the international community, with plans to make the vaccines available and very affordable to poor countries in the continent.
She also stated that negotiations are being made to eliminate preferential distribution of the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca to developed countries before poorer countries in Africa.
“So, the Pfizer vaccine, the AstraZeneca, those are being negotiated now so that poor countries don’t have to stand in line behind rich countries.
“So, we hope they are starting by the end of January. We will be able to reach these countries, including most of the African countries, Nigeria included, will be able to get access to some of these vaccines.
“Initially, it will be for frontline health workers, followed by some other target groups – older people, those with underlying conditions and then, from there, the rest of the population. I think the COVAX facility can cover maybe 20-23 per cent of the population by the end of next year,” she said.