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Minister warns on consequences of uneven rollout of COVID-19 vaccines

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Osagie Ehanire. Photo/TWITTER/NCDCGOV

• Tasks manufacturers on boosting global production
• Fresh report shows decline in treatment of HIV among children

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has warned that Nigeria and the rest of Africa may continue to suffer the devastating impact of COVID-19 if the global inequitable rollout of vaccines is not addressed.

He appealed to vaccine manufacturers to make it easy for countries to share doses and prioritise tech transfer agreements to expand global production. He also urged richer countries to support waivers on intellectual property and facilitate free movement of vital raw materials to scale up production capacity.

The minister, who spoke during a virtual press conference by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Africa Region, observed that Nigeria still has a window of opportunity to prevent the spread of the Delta variant and the devastating impact it could bring to African countries.

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He said: “We witnessed the unfortunate surge in cases in India a few months ago and a similar surge is now being seen in most African countries. In Nigeria, the Delta variant was first detected two weeks ago and we have begun to see an increase in the number of new cases.”

He nevertheless noted: “In Nigeria, we have continued to build on our rich experience from polio vaccination campaigns to strengthen our country’s readiness for a nationwide rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. We anticipate an increase in the volume of doses coming to Nigeria in the next three months and have begun to implement measures that create a balance between demand and supply.”

According to him, “This includes the scale up of our ultra cold chain capacity, risk communication and community engagement and training of health workers among others. Our national regulatory agency, NAFDAC, has continued to evaluate and approve vaccines for use, to ensure we do not experience bottlenecks in accessing the global portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines.”

A report released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and partners, meanwhile, has warned that progress towards ending AIDS among children, adolescents and young women has stalled and none of the targets for 2020 were met.

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The report shows that the total number of children on treatment declined for the first time, despite the fact that nearly 800,000 children living with HIV are not currently on treatment.

It also shows that opportunities to identify infants and young children living with HIV early are being missed: more than one third of children born to mothers living with HIV were not tested. If untreated, around 50 per cent of children living with HIV die before they reach their second birthday.

UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director (Programme), Shannon Hader, regretted that despite early and dramatic progress recorded over the years, children are falling way behind adults.

Harder noted that the initiative for families and children to prevent vertical transmission and children dying of AIDS kick-started over 20 years ago.

She said: “This stemmed from an unprecedented activation of all partners, yet, despite early and dramatic progress, despite more tools and knowledge than ever before, children are falling way behind adults and way behind our goals.”

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