The Director-General, World Trade Organisation ( WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has criticised what she describes as a worrying imbalance in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines between rich and poor countries.
She reiterated the need for Nigeria and the African continent to produce their own COVID-19 vaccines.
Okonjo-Iweala called on Africa to create a “roadmap” for boosting the continent’s capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines, adding that it was worrisome that the continent relies 99 percent on importation for her vaccines and 90 percent for her pharmaceuticals.
She made the call at this year’s National Diaspora Day celebration in Abuja, on Sunday.
Speaking virtually as one of the special guests, Okonjo-Iweala, disclosed that the minister of health and the Centre for Disease have been working hard to see that “we can attract some of these companies.”
She said: “I am quite worried and that is why we tried to bring these CEOs of the major manufacturing companies from Moderna to Pfizer to AstraZeneca, J& J; the Chinese ones and now Russia own also, they have told us all the numbers and how they are trying to increase production.
“The vaccine volume is actually increasing. In June, they had 1.1 billion doses more vaccines produced in the world, 45 per cent more than the amount in May. The bad news is that most of those doses end up in the developed countries and the vaccine inequity continues. That is why we are trying to work with them; vaccines producers, to change the story.
“We understand that COVAX, where I was one of the founding members is doing better. It has already sent 130 million doses to developing countries, but it was supposed to have done about 500 million by now. So hopefully this will happen this summer, July-August, so that will improve things a little. But what we are trying to do is to say let us not be dependent on other people all the time. We cannot as a continent continue to import 99 percent of our vaccines and 90 percent of our pharmaceuticals.
“What we are now pushing is for house to develop that industry in African. And the AU ACDC is working very hard and in our country the minister of health, the CDC have been working very hard to also see that we can attract some of these companies. We can even develop our own vaccines, two Nigerians in the diaspora I hear have developed vaccines which they are experimenting now. So that is the right direction.”