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Senate urges FG to procure COVID-19 vaccines for Nigerians

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam, Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos) and Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Abuja)
04 December 2020   |   4:18 am
The Senate has urged the Federal Government to make sufficient funds available for procurement and administration of COVID-19 vaccines on Nigerians.

• Nigeria, others at risk of delayed access over N14tr funding gap
• Virus to push 207m into extreme poverty by 2030

The Senate has urged the Federal Government to make sufficient funds available for procurement and administration of COVID-19 vaccines on Nigerians.

It described as unfortunate the failure by government to produce a plan for the purchase, distribution and administration of the therapy despite the fact that many nations globally had done so.

Adopting a motion sponsored yesterday by Senator Oloriegbe Ibrahim (APC: Kwara State) during plenary presided over by Senate President Ahmad Lawan in Abuja, the upper legislative chamber also directed its Committee on Health and Primary Health Care to summon the Ministries of Health and Finance, as well as the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and other relevant agencies for their plans.

The Red Chamber lamented that “between 28th February 8 and December 2, 2020, 67, 960 cases of COVID-19 was reported in Nigeria and sadly, 1,177 persons died, while 63, 839 were discharged.”

It deplored the level of compliance with measures put in place to check spread of the virus.

The Senate further expressed worry over level of testing, detection and isolation.

The lawmakers regretted that “the only plan on COVID-19 vaccine for Nigeria is the pledge by Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) to support 20 per cent of the country’s requirement.”

This support, according to them, would cover only the cost of the treatment without taking care of logistics for distribution and administration.

The legislature went on: “Despite the change in the epidemiology trends of the disease, the financial plan developed by the country and World Bank in April 2020 to fund the response to the pandemic is still being implemented without taking due cognisance of the changes by re-allocating the funds to vaccine procurement.”

It noted that failure to administer vaccines on the most populous black nation would result in Nigeria’s inability to contain further infections and a possible ban on Nigerians by countries across the world.

HOWEVER, people in 10 major economies, namely United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, Sweden and United Arab Emirates, would next week access Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, but Nigerians might not due to a funding gap of $28.2 billion (N14.1 trillion).

A new report, published yesterday by the Eurasia Group, submitted that leaving low and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs) like Nigeria without access to the cure would cause significant economic damage that could put decades of progress at risk – both for the LLMICs and advanced economies.

The document warned that if the problem was not urgently addressed, Nigeria would witness delayed access to vital things like tests, treatment and vaccines in 2021.

ALSO, additional 207 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 owing to the severe long-term impact of the pandemic, bringing the total number to more than a billion, a new study from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has found. 

According to the survey, released yesterday, such a “high damage” scenario would mean a protracted recovery from COVID-19, anticipating that 80 per cent of the pandemic-induced economic crisis would continue over a decade. 

UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, stressed that the scourge was a “tipping point”, adding that the future depends on decisions taken today. 

Besides, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), yesterday, launched a $6.4 billion emergency fund to reach more than 190 million kids affected by humanitarian crisis in this troubling period. 

The appeal for 2021, which is a 35 per cent increase over the funds requested for this year, is the largest ever by the UN agency. It would support essential services in 149 countries and territories. 

It is an “unprecedented” situation, said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore.