By Asmau Ahmad
The Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) says the exclusive control of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments by ‘big’ pharmaceutical companies continue to put the world at risk of the next deadly variant of the virus.
Executive Director of NNNGO, Mr Oyebisi Oluseyi made the assertion during a news conference on Friday in Lagos, in collaboration with the Global Call to Action Against Poverty and the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
March 11 marks the beginning of the third year since the World Health Organisation (WHO) formally declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Mr Oluseyi said that world leaders have the power to remove the monopoly of big pharmaceuticals on vaccines, tests and treatment and allow countries to produce life-saving medicines needed by their citizens.
According to him, there are over 100 facilities globally that can produce more vaccine doses if the monopoly of pharmaceuticals on these technologies was temporarily lifted and the recipes shared.
“Heading into our third year of the pandemic, billions of people worldwide still don’t have access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatment. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are recording profits of over one million dollars per hour.
“The lack of strong government action in the face of pharmaceutical monopoly greed is causing thousands of needless deaths each day,” he said.
He called on governments to deliver on long-awaited intellectual property waiver, compel pharmaceutical companies to share vaccine making know-how, and fund production of regional vaccine and treatment production hubs.
Oluseyi said that Africa and other developing countries continue to see disparities in access to vaccines which had prolonged the pandemic in Africa and deepened existing inequalities across the continent.
He appealed to governments to invest in public healthcare services and ensure women and other vulnerable groups have equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“Officially the records show that the casualties of the pandemic were more in developed nations.
“The reality is that countries in the African continent recorded major loss of lives due to the pandemic but lack of concrete data is likely why we may never have the figures to show a truer reflection of the impact of the pandemic on our continent,” he said.
He appealed to the Nigerian Government, civil society and private sector organisations to support its call for the British, German, United States and French Governments to stop blocking the waiver of intellectual property rules on all COVID-19 related technologies.
Oluseyi noted that doing this would revolutionise global vaccine manufacturing and unlock the productive capacity needed to end the pandemic.
He added that it could also build the scientific and industry networks needed to protect Africa and the rest of the world from future disease outbreaks.