President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration seems to be in conscious slumber, waiting on serious countries for free Covid-19 vaccines that are not forthcoming, despite open options of purchase that serious peers have taken.
A year and a half after the Covid-19 pandemic has killed 2,122, more than enough people to fill four Boeing 777-300 passenger plane, the current administration keeps paying lip-service commitments to procuring vaccines without securing deals with manufacturers.
Nigeria has almost exhausted the 3.94 million doses of India-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine donated early March by COVAX, the global facility for vaccine distribution. The doses gave coverage to 0.96 percent or less than 1 percent of Nigeria’s over 200 million populace, and the government still has no constructive plan to get vaccine outside donations.
From North America to Europe and Asia, the handwriting is clear that most haves-countries will not give up excess vaccines, until they dim their population safe, regardless of how loud the noise against vaccine inequity or protectionism may be.
Mutations in the Covid-19 virus to different strains that are challenging the potency of vaccines and reinfections are keeping many countries on the defensive. Calls for waiving intellectual property rights for the vaccines have not yielded progress either as leading pharmaceutical companies insist it won’t have an impact in the short terms.
“We should have done that months ago instead of holding endless talks and issuing loud messages of our intention to buy. Nobody takes us seriously anymore. We really have not demonstrated any seriousness on the issue of Covid-19 vaccine procurement – none at all – and the two arms of our government, the executive and the legislature, are responsible for this debacle,” Oyewale Tomori, professor of virology says.
Some African countries seeing vaccine scarcity could persist took action to edge themselves against fallouts and secured direct procurement deals with manufacturers.
South Africa, for instance, secured vaccines from American drugmaker, Pfizer, after realising AstraZeneca from COVAX was a misfit for its population, before Johnson & Johnson vaccines reached finishing and despite expectations from African Union. As of July 9, it had an overall vaccine supply of roughly 8 million doses and 13.29 percent of its population is vaccinated.
Ivory Coast has ordered one million doses of the Europe-approved AstraZeneca vaccines outside of the COVAX to ramp up its inoculation from 1.61 percent of the population covered.
A diversified portfolio of vaccine suppliers such as China’s Sinopharm has ramped up the country’s supply to 19.8 million doses and 26.84 percent of the population covered, Africa Centre for Disease Control vaccination data show.
The World Bank appears to be jolting Nigeria out of slumber, urging Africa’s largest economy to quit crawling by omitting it from 51 countries to benefit from a $4 billion fund for procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.
Morocco, South Africa and Egypt among others also didn’t make that list.
“It is a message that you can help yourself. Stop comparing yourself to Afghanistan Ecuador, Niger, Papua New Guinea and other countries. You will notice that countries like South Africa or Uganda are not on the list, which has South Sudan, Togo, Yemen and Zambia. The world is telling Nigeria that you are an eagle; stop behaving like a day-old chick. If we spend our money right, we will not go begging as we currently do,” Tomori states.
According tin Olorunnimbe Mamora, the minister of state for health, the government through Bio-Vaccine Nigeria Limited, a joint-venture between Nigeria and a private firm, is working on manufacturing to fix vaccine shortages for the country. An idea the World Health Organisations says will not be effective for the current pandemic.
To be proactive, it might be better late to make direct orders than to keep hanging hope on struggling schemes for donations.