The preesure of world leaders were seen to have found some respite since the success of the development of a vaccine against the deadly COVID-19 which saw the world been plunged into crisis of lockdown, amid colossal losses of lives across the globe. The swiftness to which the vaccines were developed could easily be related to the reality of the pandemic as an emergency that needed to be dealt with worldwide. However, while variants of the vaccine have been developed, with the developed world having larger percentage of their citizens being vaccinated, the profile of vaccination of citizens across Africa is still far from any reasonable degree. Citizens in majority of the Countries on the continent are largely still not vaccinated with either of the doses of vaccines.
In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous Country, the profile of the population vaccinated is still very infinitesimal to the degree of the projection of the world to fight the virus at the global front. Over the weekend, the Federal Government mentioned that only about three per cent of Nigeria’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, attributing the deficits to poor access to the vaccine by developing Countries.The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made the disclosure in Madrid, Spain at the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). In a statement issued on the event, by the Special Assistant to the President (Media), Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Segun Adeyemi, Mohammed had warned that lack of vaccination by developing countries would provide a fertile ground for the COVID-19 virus to mutate, thus threatening the progress already recorded even in the developed Countries. The Minister who spoke against the background of the latest mutation (Omicron) of the COVID-19 virus, lamented that most developed Countries had already vaccinated 60 per cent and above of their population, wile most developing Countries were currently below five per cent. “My Country Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, has just vaccinated only about three per cent of our population,” he was quoted. Mohammed noted that slow and delayed vaccination rollout in low and middle-income Countries had left many of them vulnerable to COVID-19 variants, new surges of infection and slower rate of recovery.
It would be recalled that in November at the Paris Peace Forum (PPF), President Muhammadu Buhari, had on Thursday 11th, lamented to world leaders what he sees as ‘lopsidedness’ in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, which according to him, has put Africa in a disadvantage. Buhari who raised a flag of warning had said “if global vaccination is the only way to end the COVID-19 pandemic, then all stakeholders must act in a coordinated manner to plug the vaccine supply gap in Africa.” Comparing statistics of vaccination ratio between the developed world and Africa, he had quoted recent data, as of 4th November, 2021, which stated that 91.3 doses of vaccine had been given for every 100 persons across the world, while the same date, however, only 14.7 doses of vaccine per 100 persons had been administered in Africa – which according to him was “a clear case of lopsidedness.” “The state of vaccine delivery across the world leaves much to be desired,’’ he said, lamenting that “we have a situation where some Countries are giving booster third doses for their citizens when millions across the world, especially in the developing world, are yet to receive a single dose.’’
“According to Bloomberg, countries with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated ten times faster than those with the lowest income,” he had added. He had further noted that “As of 5th November 2021, Africa had fully vaccinated 77 million persons, amounting to just 6 per cent of the continent’s population. By comparison, 60 per cent of the European Union population had been fully vaccinated by September 2021.” In his address at the forum entitled “Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Importance of Coordination Among All Actors for Vaccine Delivery,” Buhari had mentioned that the coordination for distribution had to be total and the objective had to be the same to deliver vaccines to the world. According to Buhari, the massive gap between vaccine requirements in Africa and vaccine availability is undermining the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent, thus warning world leaders and global health institutions that sidelining less privileged Countries in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines would undermine the entire effort for safety.
It is lamentable that while in some Countries in the developed world, subjects of booster doses have been at the fore front of discourse, Nigeria is still grappling with struggles to have less than five per cent of her population vaccinated. It is observable that while there are issues with accessibility to the vaccines, the question of readiness of the citizens to take the doses where available is still a subject in view. It is not controvertible that a strong percentage of Nigerians still nurture doubt and apprehension over the vaccine. This is just as there are still many at the local level, who till now, have never believed there is anything called COVID-19. Many still believe the wrong perception that it is only a calculated attempt by the Government to siphon money and inconvenient the masees. It could be deduced that such perceptions can be linked to the overbearing disconnect between the masses and the Government, entrenched with the feelings of distrust and loss of confidence.
As newer variants of the virus are surfacing, it has become more important for the Government at all levels to work alongside local authorities, social and religious stakeholders among other societal gate keepers and opinion moulders, including civil society organisations and strategic NGOs towards the end of stretching enlightenment across board. This is important to convince more citizens beyond the benefits of doubt to avail themselves of the available vaccines, while more efforts are fortified on attracting more roll out of the vaccines. It is noteworthy that lobbying for more vaccine roll out with resistance from majority of citizens who are hostile to been vaccinated would be counterproductive to the desideratum. While resort to order to force government workers to get vaccinated as well as orders of denial of access to public facilities have much been in view, it is instructive that getting civil obedience for a broad reconciliation to the desideratum would only come by appealing to the conviction of the masses through their perception.