Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said on Wednesday Nigeria and other countries in Africa would have access to COVID-19 vaccines by the end of January 2021.
Okonjo-Iweala, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, disclosed this at the end of a closed-door meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama in Abuja.
She said: “As long as one person has it in the world, no one is safe. And that is why poorer countries and lower-middle-income countries like Nigeria need to get it as quickly as possible.”
Okonjo-Iweala, who is currently the African Union Special Envoy on the mobilization of international economic support for the continental fight against COVID-19, is leading the race for the vacant World Trade Organization (WTO)’ director-general’s position.
According to the ex-minister, the initiative on the COVID-19 vaccine involved the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI and the international community.
She stressed that the goal was to get vaccines delivered to developing and poorer countries quickly and in an affordable manner.
Okonjo-Iweala said the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca were presently being negotiated by the consortium so that poor countries don’t have to stand in a queue behind rich countries.
She also warned African nations against complacency in the fight against the pandemic.
The ex-minister recalled that a platform called the COVAX facility had been developed with 186 countries on board to serve poor countries, mobilize resources and ensure the vaccines get 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 and Nigeria.
“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,” Okonjo-Iweala stated.
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