Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former minister of finance, has assured Nigeria and other African countries of access to COVID-19 vaccines as from the end of January through the first quarter of 2021, a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday.
The statement quoted Mrs Okonjo-Iweala as disclosing this at a closed-door meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama in Abuja.
“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 was quoted as saying.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala is currently the African Union Special Envoy on mobilising international economic support for the continental fight against COVID-19 and Nigeria’s candidate for the Office of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.
She disclosed that the international initiative involved the World Health Organisation, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI and the international community, to get vaccines delivered to developing and poorer countries, in an affordable manner and quickly.
According to her, the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca one were presently being negotiated so that poor countries do not have to stand in a queue behind rich countries.
The former finance minister described Africans as blessed, for not having the same incidence rate of COVID-19 like other continents, but warned African nations against complacency.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala recalled that a platform called the COVAX facility had been developed with 186 countries on board, saying that the side interested in serving the poor countries had 92 countries, for which resources have been raised to try and get the vaccines to them quickly.
“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 percent of the population by the end of next year,” Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said.