Okonjo-Iweala: Unequal Access To COVID Vaccines Not Acceptable

Okonjo-Iweala: Unequal Access To COVID Vaccines Not Acceptable
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (New Director-General, World Trade Organisation)

Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has expressed that the inequity in accessing COVID-19 vaccines is unacceptable.

Okonjo-Iweala spoke after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, in New York.

Buhari is in New York for the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA76).

Speaking to journalists after the meeting at Millennium Plaza, Manhattan, New York, Okonjo-Iweala stated that she briefed the president on efforts to mobilise COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to Nigeria.

She expressed displeasure over the “lopsidedness” in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, saying even the vaccinated are unsafe where most of the population is not vaccinated.

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“What we’re trying to say is that the inequity in access to vaccines is not acceptable. The fact that on the African continent, less than four percent of us have been vaccinated, whereas in the rich countries, you know, close to 50 percent have been vaccinated, is not something that really is good for the world,” she said.

“Why? Because we have all these variants that are circulating. And if you don’t vaccinate people, they will just migrate from the unvaccinated to the vaccinated.

“So, what we’re saying is, in order to solve this problem, we have to produce more vaccines. And then we have to distribute them equitably, to parts of the world that don’t have.

“At the WTO, what we’re doing is actually working directly with the manufacturers. We’re helping them monitor their supply chains, which are very complicated, to see what are the bottlenecks they have, what are the regulatory issues they face, how can we facilitate trade?

“In return, by asking them to deconcentrate production and go to those parts of the world where they can invest. For example, on the African continent, we don’t want to continue importing 99 percent of vaccines that we use, or 90 percent of our pharmaceuticals.

“So, they should invest, and I think it’s working. Pfizer announced $100 million investment in South Africa recently. We’re also looking at Nigeria. We’re the largest country and his excellency Mr. President, also wants to develop manufacturing. So, we want to support that.”

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