The Federal Government on Wednesday warned that lack of vaccination by developing countries would provide a fertile ground for the COVID-19 virus to mutate, thereby threatening the progress already recorded even in the developed countries.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, according to a statement by his Special Assistant (Media), Segun Adeyemi, issued the warning in Madrid, Spain, at the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
He was speaking against the background of the latest mutation (Omicron) of the COVID-19 virus, which has triggered a wave of travel bans on some countries in Africa.
Mohammed said access to vaccines should be based on the principles grounded in the right of every human to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, political belief, economic or any other social condition.
The Minister said many developed countries have used the advantage of their enormous resources or relationship to sign agreements with manufacturers to supply their countries with vaccines ahead of making them available for use by other countries.
”Even before the clinical trials were completed, millions of doses of the most promising vaccines have been bought by Britain, US, Japan and the European block countries. Some of these countries bought doses five times the size of their population.
“There are fears that these unilateral deals will deprive the poorest countries of access to these life-saving commodities”, he said.
The Minister said while developed countries have to increase their health care spending by less than 1 per cent to cover the additional cost of vaccines, poor countries have to do that by about 60 per cent.
He said booster doses would make COVID-19 vaccination a recurring expense, the cost of which will be unaffordable for many developing and poor nations.
Mohammed said a slow and delayed vaccination rollout in low and middle-income countries has left many of them vulnerable to COVID-19 variants, new surges of infection and a slower rate of recovery.
He said whereas most developed countries have already vaccinated 60 per cent and above of their population, most developing countries are currently below 5 per cent.
“My country, Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, has just vaccinated only about 3% of our population,” the Minister said.