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Vaccine inequality will affect progress in fight against COVID-19, Nigeria warns

Nigeria on Wednesday warned that lack of vaccination by developing countries will provide a fertile ground for the Covid-19 virus to mutate, thus threatening the progress already recorded even in the developed countries.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke in Madrid, Spain, at the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said access to vaccines should be based on the principles grounded in the right of every human to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, political belief, economic or any other social condition.

The Minister, speaking against the background of the latest mutation (Omicron) of the Covid-19 virus, which has triggered a wave of travel bans on some countries in Africa, said many developed countries have used the advantage of their enormous resources or relationship to sign agreements with manufacturers to supply their countries with vaccines ahead of making them available for use by other countries. 

According to Lai Mohammed, ‘even before the clinical trials were completed, millions of doses of the most promising vaccines have been bought by Britain, US, Japan and the European block countries. Some of these countries bought doses five times the size of their population. There are fears that these unilateral deals will deprive the poorest countries of access to these life-saving commodities.”

The Minister said while developed countries have to increase their health care spending by less than 1% to cover for the additional cost of vaccines, poor countries have to do that by about 60%. 

He lamented that booster doses will make Covid-19 vaccination a recurring expense, the cost of which will be unaffordable for many developing and poor nations. 

Alhaji Mohammed said a slow and delayed vaccination rollout in low and middle-income countries has left many of them vulnerable to Covid-19 variants, new surges of infection and slower rate of recovery. 

He said whereas most developed countries have already vaccinated 60% and above of their population, most developing countries are currently below 5%. 

“My country, Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, has just vaccinated only about 3% of our population,” the Minister said.

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