Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said Nigeria and other African countries to access COVID-19 vaccines from the end of January through the first quarter of 2021.
The statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday quoted the former Finance Minister as disclosing this after a closed-door meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in Abuja.
She was quoted as saying, “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.”
Okonjo-Iweala is currently the African Union Special Envoy on mobilizing 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 Organization.
She made it known that the international initiative involved the World Health Organization, the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, GAVI, and the International community, in getting vaccines delivered to developing and poorer countries, in quick and affordable manner.
According to her, the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca were presently being negotiated for poor countries not to stand in a queue behind the rich countries.
She described Africans as blessed, for not having the same experience rate of COVID-19 as other continents, but cautioned African nations against complacency.
Okonjo-Iweala recalled that the platform called the COVAX facility had been developed with 186 countries on board, adding that the side interested in serving the poor countries had 92 countries, for which resources had been raised in getting the vaccines to them quickly.
Okonjo-Iweala said, “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 per cent of the population by the end of next year.”