The federal government has warned that lack of vaccination by developing countries would create an environment for COVID-19 virus to mutate, thus threatening the progress already recorded in the developed countries.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave the warning in Madrid, Spain, yesterday at the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
He expressed the concern in the light of the travel ban on some African countries arising from the latest mutation (Omicron) of the COVID-19 virus.
He 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.
Mohammed 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.
He added that while developed countries have to increase their health care spending by less than one per cent to cover for the additional cost of vaccines, poor countries have to do that by about 60 per cent.
Mohammed warned that booster doses will make COVID-19 vaccination a recurring expense, adding the cost will be unaffordable for many developing and poor nations.
The Minister said a 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.
He said whereas most developed countries have already vaccinated 60 per cent and above of their population, most developing countries are currently below five per cent
“My country, Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, has just vaccinated only about three per cent of our population,” the Minister said.