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COVID-19: Sanwo-Olu charges world leaders on vaccine equity

…as Lagos targets 30% vaccination rate

Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has called on world leaders and the advanced economies to prioritise COVID-19 equity across the world.

Sanwo-Olu, spoke at the 2021 Global Citizen Live Concert held at Fela’s Afrika Shrine in Ikeja on Saturday, with audiences in 11 cities across the world, including Paris, Seoul, London, Sidney, New York and Los Angeles watching the event live. It was organised in honour of frontline and essential workers in the battle against the global pandemic.

Free access to COVID-19 vaccines is one of the strategies designed by the United Nations (UN) to kick-start global recovery, especially in cities that are signatories to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework.

Global Citizen Live is a 24-hour global event initiated in six continents to unite the world in defending the planet against diseases and defeating poverty.

A-list Nigerian musical artistes that performed live during the international concert included Femi Kuti, Davido, Tiwa Savage and Made Kuti, among others.

As the epicentre of the pandemic outbreak, Sanwo-Olu said Lagos had pursued a radical vaccination programmes, which led to the administration of 16,000 jabs of vaccines daily. This, he said, was a far cry from what was projected in achieving herd immunity.

Read also: IOSH Conference: Experts speak on ways to create safe workplace amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Sanwo-Olu disclosed that 405,000 residents had received first doses of AstraZeneca, while 289,000 persons returned for their second doses. The state, he said, administered 230,000 first shots of Moderna to raise the vaccinated population to about 1.2 percent within five months.

He said: “Our vaccination rate is far below the minimum target of 60 per cent recommended by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O) per city population. At the current rate, it would take about three years to achieve our herd immunity target. We cannot continue at this speed if we seriously want to beat this virus.

“To safely achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, a substantial proportion of our population would need to be vaccinated to lower the overall amount of virus able to spread in the whole population. One of the objectives of attaining herd immunity is to prevent mutations from emerging leading to more aggressive strains. It is important that Lagos achieves herd immunity at the same time with all countries together.”

Sanwo-Olu noted the situation of unequal distribution of vaccines in which richer nations secured more doses than the size of their populations and are preparing to roll out booster shots, while poorer countries struggled to administer first doses, threatening the global efforts to end the pandemic.

He said vaccine equity remained the only path to toe by world leaders to end the pandemic. To do this, the governor said the world must ensure that vaccines were available to all, especially poorer countries that had struggled with supply.

On how Lagos is creating access and ramping up vaccination, Sanwo-Olu said the government was leveraging the private sector funding, capacity and infrastructure to scale up availability and distribution.

He said: “Our proposal to the private sector is to reserve and administer 50 per cent of the vaccines procured in partnership with the private sector to be made available free of charge at government health centres. We propose to deploy a proven system where those who can pay for vaccines subsidise the cost of vaccination for those who cannot.

“Given the fact that we expect COVID-19 vaccinations to be annual going forward, this is the only sustainable path towards achieving herd immunity and making Lagos free of the virus. With our approach, we expect to vaccinate 30 per cent of the population of Lagos within one year. This will put us on a better and more sustainable path towards herd immunity. We expect COVID-19 vaccinations to be an annual programme, going forward, as this is the only way to making Lagos free of the virus.”

The governor urged Nigerians to continue to be law-abiding and comply with the travel guidelines stipulated by the Presidential Steering Committee to prevent the importation of new variants. He reiterated that observation of social distancing and personal hygiene would break the cycle of community transmission of the virus.

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