Global and national health leaders have called on nations to ensure 70 per cent of the world population is vaccinated to end the COVID-19 pandemic, as a global health emergency.
The Leaders made the call at a summit on “Ports to Arms” Africa responds to the COVID-19, Equity, Delivery, and Manufacturing, Wednesday in Abuja.
The summit was a follow-up to the October 2021 World Health Summit in Berlin, which called for world leaders to address global pandemic preparedness.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, “actions speak louder than words, so let’s get to work, to get vaccines from ports to arms, and end COVID-19 as a global health emergency.
“We must now turn our attention to addressing the crucial question of how we turn vaccines into vaccinations.”
Ghebreyesus said the world needed to pull out all the stops to achieve the 70 per cent vaccine coverage target by the middle of this year, as well as the minimum targets for testing, treatments and personal protective equipment coverage.
“Achieving the 70 per cent target in all countries is essential for ending the COVID-19 pandemic as a global health emergency and driving a truly inclusive global recovery.
“It will also help prevent the emergence of new variants, which could be more severe or transmissible next time around,” he explained.
He added that high level political leadership and accountability in elevating COVID-19 vaccination, as a national and sub-national priority was an essential condition for success.
“To support these actions, WHO, UNICEF and GAVI have initiated the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership, to assist government-led vaccine strategies through political engagement, delivery funding, technical assistance and surge support.
“This partnership will bring the tools, training, and expertise to strengthen cold chains and logistics, deploy vaccinators, mobilise funding, strengthen data systems, engage communities, and plan and coordinate operations,” he said.
Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC, said autonomy was important.
“We must work together to strengthen our health institutions, including Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Africa CDC.
“We have seen the continent mobilise as one, develop a roadmap on how to come out of the pandemic,” Nkengasong said.
Global lead Coordinator for COVID-19 Vaccine Country Readiness and Delivery, Dr Ted Chaiban, said they were committed to working in a joint up manner, so countries can reduce delivery costs, mobilise technical assistance and support efforts to address demand and hesitancy.
Director, Supply Division, UNICEF, Ms Etleva Kadili, said “we’ve seen countries’ health systems stretched with receiving vaccines.”
Kadili stated that UNICEF was working with manufacturers to increase visibility action, so countries could plan for vaccine reception.
She added that that finance was important to increase coverage of vaccination.
“End to end planning and costing is critical to success.
“The financing is also critical as we need it ahead of time to be able to accelerate; creativity and innovate solutions that are important for us to deliver,” she said.
The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, noted that Nigeria did a lot in making funds available for routine immunisation on COVID-19 response.
But Ahmed said, “right now funding is going towards delivery and rolling out to get vaccines into the arms of Nigerians.”
Also speaking, Ms Serah Makka-Ugbabe, ONE’s Executive Director, Engagement and Mobilisation, said things must change.
Makka-Ugbabe said it was important for the COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic to reach everyone.
She stressed that African leaders must increase long term thinking to build a resilient health systems.
Meanwhile, the Founder and Head, African Alliance, Dr Tian Johnson,
said a Port to Arms Vaccination Tracker, had been developed.
Johnson noted that when available, it would help to build trust, contribute to vaccine confidence and reinforce safety measures as communities would be able to see when vaccines had been shipped and its status of usage.
WHO Special Envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator), Dr. Ayoade Alakija, the deadliest pandemic in modern times continued to ravage the globe, and that COVID-19 had exposed chasms of inequality in health and education systems.
Alakija noted that despite increased production and global distribution of vaccines, Africa was still in a crisis with poor and unequal access to vaccines.