The global community was still smarting under the weight of the first and second waves of COVID-19 when a deadlier scourge, referred to as the Delta variant, crept in. This variant, believed to kill faster without its victims exhibiting notable symptoms has sucked mankind into a state of despair. The frustration currently faced by researchers all over the world is that the highly mutating variant manifested on the heels of the introduction of the various vaccines currently in use across different nations to combat the killer ailment. It is like the global scientists have won the war but lost the battle.
Without a doubt, the pandemic has caused the most severe and pervasive disruption of even the most solid economies around the world, claiming close to five million deaths and sickening several other millions. The menace has redefined the way we do things, referred to as the new normal. Several tens of millions of jobs have been lost as a result of business shutdowns. Many of them for life!
To combat the scourge, sustained efforts must be geared towards massive vaccination of the global populations. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 vaccines are relatively scarce in most countries especially in Africa. In the case of Nigeria, the quantum of vaccines available could be described as a drop in the ocean in comparison to the number of those requiring the inoculation.
It would be a great disservice on the part of the government at all levels if its citizens are left at the mercy of the menace that has claimed the lives of several Nigerians in high and low places. It in the light of this that the management of Diplomats Extra Magazine (DEM) recently organised a workshop that brought together key players and stakeholders in the relevant sectors to fashion out a blueprint needed by the government and its agencies in ensuring that the common man is equipped to navigate the labyrinth of the pandemic through provision of the vaccines at minimal or no costs to them.
Blueprint commends the effort of DEM tailored to ensure, among other things, fair and equitable distribution of the vaccines by tapping into the COVID-19 Belt and Road Initiative to make the vaccine available for all and in line with the World Health Organisation’s standards.
Another key consensus reached at the workshop was that the pandemic provided an equal opportunity for greater collaboration and cooperation among stakeholders to put the disease on the back foot.
The participants at the workshop were also quick to note the immense contribution of China on the COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution. So far, four Chinese vaccines have been approved for use in over 100 countries, including nearly 40 African countries. Two of such products, namely Sinopharm and Sinovac, have been included in the EUL and the COVAX procurement list. The safety and effectiveness of the vaccines have gained recognition and are widely in use internationally.
We urge relevant health authorities in Nigeria to look in the direction of China where the pandemic originated from with a view to availing themselves more choices of safe vaccines for Nigerian people in the short run, while the nation explore local production of the vaccines in partnership with the Chinese government in the long run.
We wish to stress that the Chinese model should be adopted to curtail the rising spread of the pandemic. We also urge the federal government to partner the media to intensify public advocacy and sensitisation on the imperative of getting vaccinated in order to debunk the conspiracy theories woven around taking the jabs.
A situation where COVID-19 vaccine distribution is monopolised by a few countries should be guided against. This practice cannot help in strengthening the global health system. And humanity would be worse for it.
It is public knowledge that the cost of the vaccines has risen astronomically in the open market. This is because the flow of the vaccines from China has seized due to the inability of the importers to get into that country. But the good news is that the Chinese government has graciously opened its boarders to the world, through the COVID-19 cooperation diplomacy.
The federal government and NAFDAC are advised to guide against hoarding by some unscrupulous Nigerians who may want to take advantage of the situation to make quick bucks. Special consideration should also be given to businessmen and students wishing to travel abroad.
We see the DEM’s initiative as a clarion call to the government and Nigerians to key into newly launched Belt and Road COVID-19 International Cooperation.