President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the Member States of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) to accelerate efforts towards developing their own vaccines against COVID-19.
Mr Buhari, while speaking at the virtual ordinary summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, on Friday, said this will help build herd immunities against the COVID-19 pandemic in West Africa.
Represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, the president said the second wave of the pandemic may have a greater impact on the region if proactive measures are not taken.
He said the first wave of the pandemic negatively impacted the health and socioeconomic sectors of the region.
He urged ECOWAS countries to prioritise the acquisition of the approved COVID-19 vaccines for their citizens while they work to develop their own vaccines.
“Now that vaccines are soon to be available, I call on all member states to ensure that we prioritise the acquisition of the vaccines for our citizens while at the same time increasing efforts to develop our own vaccines so that we can build herd immunities against the COVID-19 pandemic in West Africa,” he said.
Mr Buhari also urged the ECOWAS Commission to work with the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) to assist member states in acquiring the vaccines and provide facilities to store and distribute the vaccines within the region.
As COVID-19 vaccines are currently being rolled out globally, most African countries, including Nigeria, are banking on benefitting from the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Assess Facility, or Covax, the World Health Organization-backed programme, which was set-up to divide a billion doses across 92 low- and middle-income countries.
The Nigerian government said it will receive at least 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of January through COVAX.
Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, also said efforts are ongoing to secure about 10 million more doses of the approved COVID-19 vaccines for Nigerians.
He said Nigeria is participating in the African Union initiative called “African Vaccine Availability Task Team”, which has secured 270 million doses of various types of vaccines.
“Bearing in mind options suitable for our environment and the available infrastructure, as well as Investment in delivery, Nigeria has written to express interest in 10 million doses of the viral vector vaccine, which could be supplied as from March 2021,” Mr Ehanire said
Rapid Test Kits
On Saturday, Mr Buhari said it is important for the region to start producing the Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) Kits to boost COVID-19 testing capacity.
He said it is important for the region to evolve effective measures and avoid total lockdown at this critical time that “our economies are gradually recovering from the first wave of the pandemic.
“Efforts should also be accelerated for the region to start producing rapid diagnostic test kits of international standards to be made available to all member states.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had, last September, announced the Emergency Use Authorisation of two Ag- RDTs, manufactured by SD Biosensor and Abbott for COVID-19 testing.