By G9ija

AIDS Health Care Foundation (AHF) on Wednesday in Abuja called on world leaders and stakeholders to protect humanity by providing equal access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

The Country Program Director, AHF Nigeria, Dr Echey Ijezie, made the call at a media roundtable on the theme: `Vaccinate Our World’ (VOW), a campaign, organised by AHF.

Ijezie explained that the aim of the campaign was to bridge the disparity on COVID-19 vaccine that currently existed between the wealthy nations and those of lower economic status.

According to him, about 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine have already been administered worldwide and 83 per cent of the 1.3 billion doses are mainly in the developed countries.

“While only 0.3 per cent have been administered in the least developed countries and the low income countries.

“The disparity is quite clear, therefore, the Foundation is calling on world leaders, pharmaceutical companies and public health organisations to ensure equal access to the vaccine.

“If this is not done, it is a moral failure and a public health failure and the pandemic will continue to rage on, hence the need to bridge the gap,” Ijezie stressed.

The country programme director further called for the need to implement public health communication strategies to increase the level of awareness of the disease and vaccine at the grassroots.

“Presently vaccines are being rolled out across the country but there is a lot of vaccine resistance, so there is a need for public health communication.

“Stakeholders like the civil society organisations, religious leaders, faith based organisations can be involved to ensure the message reaches the grassroots, while emphasising the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,’’ he said.

Also speaking, Mr Matin Egbambi, the General Secretary Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, called for the application of the principle of social justice in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Egbambi said that it was important to apply the principle of social justice, so that the most vulnerable citizens in the country are taken into consideration.

“ We demand that there must be an increase in the production of vaccines and the distribution in the global search to ensure that lives are protected, including the vulnerable citizens.

“ Health is wealth and the pandemic facing us today requires proactive action,” Egbambi said.

Mr Rommy Mom, President Lawyers Alert, a Human Right NGO, said that the vaccine should be seen as a world public good and a human right across the globe.

“The need to have vaccines in the arms and protect lives is important, but only if we see it as a human rights issue, then as human beings, we have a right to get it.

“Human rights simply means by virtue of being born, the rights are yours and innate, and cannot be taken away.

“The issue of right to life and well-being according to the charters explains that it does not matter what part of the world we live in, everyone has a right and should get vaccinated,” he said.

Mrs Hauwa Mustapha, Interim Deputy, National Coordinator Association for COVID-19 and Beyond, expressed concern on the profiteering and commercialisation involved in the procurement of vaccines aimed at financial gains.

She, however, highlighted the weakness and challenges encountered by developing countries on their capacity to produce vaccines which was due to certain international rules on patent rights.

Mustapha demanded that grants and aids given to African countries from Europe and America could be channeled to acquiring vaccines and made available across all status not limited to any particular class.

According to her, those in the southern part of the globe and those interested in key developmental issues in other parts of the world should come together and ensure equal access to COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Walter Ugwuocha, National Coordinator Civil Society for HIV and AIDS in Nigeria, said that only about 2,110,141 Nigerians had been vaccinated.

Ugwuocha noted that COVID-19 started from developed countries and affected everyone including developing nations.

He, however, said that the weak governance mechanism in developing countries had resulted in poor coordination in ensuring equal access to the vaccine.’

Ugwuocha further called on Africa countries and the Nigeria Government to engage in diplomatic relations to ensure availability and equal access of the vaccine in developing nations.