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At the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC meeting on Wednesday, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire reannounced the government intention to distribute about 20 million COVID-19 vaccines by January 2021.
However, it appears this target is impossible because there are concerns that Nigeria and many other developing nations may not receive the vaccines until when the vaccines is mass produced in probably 2024.
This is according to a report from the Duke University, North Carolina, United States which believes that while the route to ending the pandemic is clear in the West, the route in developing countries like Nigeria will be longer and rougher.
The report cited that COVID-19 vaccines have now become a scramble between rich countries like the US, Canada, Germany, UK who had pre-ordered the vaccines and also have the money and resources to purchase the vaccines; versus developing countries like Nigeria, India, Peru who may not be financially capable to access the vaccines.
The World Health Organisation had sought to avoid this international stampede for vaccines by creating the COVAX Initiative. The COVAX initiative had raised $2 billion and wants to distribute 1 billion shots of vaccines to developing countries by 2021.
But experts say the COVAX has been finding it difficult to achieve its purpose because with limited supplies of the vaccines because developed nations who funded the research of these vaccines are placing themselves first in line and buying up all the vaccines. While the poorer countries have to only wait for their turn or when there are more supplies of the vaccines.
A report by nbc.com also corroborated the claim that rich countries are hoarding the vaccines while poor countries are helpless.
However, experts have warned that this imbalance of supply may lead to another breakout of COVID-19 in the world. The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a collaboration between several aid groups including Oxfam and Amnesty International said that if drastic measures are not taken, nearly 70 poor countries will be unable to vaccinate 90 percent of their populations next year.
COVAX is presently $4.3 billion short of the cash it needs and amidst fears that COVAX cannot deliver, some of these developing countries are seeking out alternative means to purchase their vaccines.
Palau, a tiny Pacific island has abandoned the COVAX initiative and instead said it will get vaccines from the United States. Malaysia, Peru, Bangladesh have said they will remain in the initiative but seek alternative routes.
South Africa said COVAX was merely a stopgap and it would seek bilateral deals with the US and other developed countries. Also, South Africa and India have pleaded with the World Trade Organisation to waive some provisions and make it possible for local manufacturers to make the vaccines.
However, in the midst of these scramble, Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Nigeria and other developing countries with the threat of a looming second wave.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC on Thursday announced 1,145 cases of COVID-19 in a day. The figure was the highest ever infection recorded in one day since recordkeeping commenced in March and it took the total recorded cases to 76,207 cases.
With the festive season fast approaching, there are solid concerns from the NCDC and the Government that the virus will spread rapidly as people increase mobility and gatherings. And without a vaccine in sight by 2021, the country may get into a more catastrophic second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.