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•Fresh concerns over access to vaccines by developing nations

No fewer than 138 members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) have tested positive for COVID-19. Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who made the disclosure during the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 yesterday in Abuja, added that none of the patients was allowed into camp.

According to him, the affected corps members are either being managed at home or in a treatment centre depending further reviews. He said: “A total of 34,785 corps members and members of the camp communities have been tested so far in the last weeks. Out of the number, only 138 were found positive, which is 0.4 per cent prevalence and one in 200 people.”

In his speech, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said Nigeria was vigilant with regards to the exploding figures infections in Europe and the America. Stating that the country was strengthening capacity for treatment, he added that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was also reviewing the entry protocols at the borders to reduce importation of the disease.

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In the interim, concerns have, again, been raised regarding access to effective COVID-19 vaccines by poor nations, including Nigeria.

This is even as Lagos State begins review of its infectious disease strategic response plans ahead of tomorrow’s hosting of the sixth yearly African Conference on Biosecurity and One Health.

The three-day event, to be hosted in partnership with a non-governmental organisation, Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET), is themed, “Strengthening Africa’s Resilience in Tackling Emerging Biosecurity Threats: Lessons from COVID-19 Pandemic” and holds hold at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island.

Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, in a statement signed by Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, harped on the aptness of the conference.

However, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who raised the fears about the world’s poorest securing access to cure, was speaking at a G20 summit, which saw leaders promise a fair distribution of jabs.

The G20 is an international forum for governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union (EU). But Merkel warned that progress was slow, saying she would raise the matter with global vaccine alliance, GAVI.

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GAVI is a public–private global health partnership geared at increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.“We will now speak with GAVI about when these negotiations will begin because I am somewhat worried that nothing has been done on that yet,” she said.

Her comments come as the United States announced that some Americans could be vaccinated as early as December 11. The summit of the world’s leading economic powers was hosted by Saudi Arabia. Due to the pandemic, meetings were held virtually.

During the conference, the world’s richest nations promised to support poor countries whose economies have been badly disrupted by the virus, but details on spending were sketchy.

The disease has infected nearly 60 million people and killed almost 1.4 million others around the world since emerging in China last December. The G20 nations also pledged to address the immediate financing required for production and fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the diagnosis and treatment.

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“We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people,” the group said in their closing communiqué. At a news conference, Saudi Minister of Finance, Mohammed al-Jadaan, said there was consensus among G20 nations that, “if we leave any country behind, we will be behind.”

Developed nations, including the United Kingdom, have bought up huge numbers of vaccine doses from pharmaceutical firms. French President Emmanuel Macron called on G20 leaders to “go further and faster” in supporting poorer nations by donating doses, forging industrial partnerships and even sharing intellectual property.

But European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “More funding is needed” to plug a $4.5 billion gap in the so-called ACT-Accelerator, a mechanism by the World Health Organisation to ensure access to tests, treatment and vaccines for all.


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