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ECOWAS leaders urged to compete in search for COVID-19 vaccines

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have been charged to mobilize resources to compete favourably in the global ongoing research to discover vaccines and cure for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stanley Okolo, Director General of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) gave this charge, while addressing the ECOWAS Parliament during the virtual Second Extra-Ordinary Session of the Parliament on Tuesday.

Okolo said the sub-region has taken some steps to locally manufacture the requisite test kits instead of continually depending on acquiring them from abroad, stressing  that WAHO will provide support to institutions conducting such research.

“We think that we should pull financial resources in order to compete favourably in acquiring Covid-19 Vaccines.

“We are supporting some of the industries in terms of COVID-19, we think that parliament should also help us support them through Private-Public Partnership (PPP).

“At the moment, the one industry that is definitely looking at diagnostic tests is the Institute Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal and we have signed a MoU with them and we have put some seed funding aside which we will invest in them.

“We think that this institute, if the tests are available from the end of this month or early next month, West Africa can buy it at very cheap cost.

“We are looking at about two dollars or three dollars, whereas you find that the similar test kit in the open market is about 9 dollars or 10 dollars.

“We are really trying as much as possible to go strategically to ensure that we support our West African region but also we broker easy purchase at competitive prices for all our 15 countries,” he said.

He also called for funding of such projects by contributions from member states in order to reduce the reliance on foreign partners to make progress in the health sector.

He also admonished member states of the regional bloc to do their best to implement the Abuja declaration on allocating 15 percent of National Budgets to the health sector.

He said: “We cannot do all these with only foreign partners funding us; therefore domestic health financing is really key.

“We need to ensure that budgets meet the 15 per cent Abuja declaration.

“We understand that if you have countries like Mali spending about 25 per cent of their budgets on Security how much more have they got to share in order to get that 15 per cent.

“That is why in WAHO we have also been advocating with the external world, the forgiveness of public debt.”

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