Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki; and Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, on Monday, said that the continent will rise again to take a lead role in vaccine development, production and distribution in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
They pledged their support for a homegrown solution to address vaccine access to totally defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and protect people from infectious diseases.
They made the declaration at Igbinedion University Okada (IUO), Edo State, during the launch of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) Independent Task Team on the Development of Vaccines and Equitable, Universal Access to essential Vaccines and Vaccinations in Africa.
Obasanjo, in a keynote address, said the continent would overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and surmount other challenges across Africa if its healthcare stakeholders champion the CoDA initiative and harness available resources to provide customised home-grown solutions.
Former Head, African Union and Convener CoDA, Prof. Abdoulaye Bathily, represented Obasanjo, who is the Chairman of the CoDA Board of Directors.
Obasanjo said: “I am glad to let you know that today’s launch is in fulfilment of that promise and it marks the beginning of new partnerships and collaborations that will see our continent play a lead role in vaccine development, production and distribution.
“I would like to express my gratitude to Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital Okada for accepting to host this initiative by providing a centre through which activities will be coordinated with CoDA.
“I salute their courage despite the uncertainty currently surrounding the issue of vaccines globally. I also thank everyone who has been involved in putting ideas to work for the takeoff of the initiative.
“I have always believed that Africa’s main challenge is not the lack of funds or resources. Our main challenge is the inability to harness available resources to provide customized home-grown solutions needed to address the challenges we see across the continent.”
He said many of researchers; doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are constantly being drawn out of the continent to serve in other continents.
Obasanjo added: “They use their intellect to serve the needs of other continents, and most times without being duly credited or acknowledge for their intellectual investments, while our own health systems are underdeveloped. We need to reverse this trend and begin to take actions to harness our local resources to solve our local problems.”
Obasanjo said through initiatives like this one, Africa would be able to encourage and retain its talents and support them in finding solutions to its age-long healthcare challenges.
He added that the CoDA initiative is one of those initiatives that will help Africa look inwards to identify and channel available resources to areas where they are needed.
“This initiative has the potential to positively change the vaccine and vaccination landscape across the continent and set precedence for vaccine entrepreneurship in the continent. If we carefully nurture the initiative through to maturity, we would have laid a good foundation for a healthier Africa using, largely, resources from within the continent,” he added.
Obaseki lauded the initiative and launch of CoDA Independent Task Team on the development of vaccines and equitable, universal access to essential vaccines and vaccinations in Africa.
Former Governor of Edo state and Deputy Chancellor and Deputy Chairman, Board of Regents, Igbinedion University Okada, Chief Lucky Igbinedion urged support for the initiative particularly, the African Union (AU) and CoDA in scaling up research and building capacity for the development and distribution of essential vaccines in Africa.
Earlier, Executive Director, CoDA, Ms. Souad Aden-Osman, said the initiative is aimed at generating demand for vaccine development, production and distribution in Africa. Osman said: “CoDA and Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital could be combining their respective advantages to bring about a set of solutions that would be practical and immediately used by our government.”