One of Nigeria’s main priorities at the moment is getting hold of a new COVID-19 vaccine which has shown plenty of promise after clinical trials, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced this week that a vaccine that shows more than 90% efficacy against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which has ravaged the world all year and shut down economies, will soon be made available to the rest of the world after regulatory approvals.

The United States and Europe have placed orders for millions of doses of the experimental vaccine and Osinbajo has stated that Nigeria is on the queue as well.

President Buhari has called for an equal distribution of this vaccine.

At the opening session of the virtual edition of the Paris Peace Forum which featured presentations by some Heads of State and governments alongside international organisations, Osinbajo said the world needs a collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

'Utmost concern'

Stating what Nigeria’s priorities in its COVID-19 response are, the vice president said: “the priorities of Nigeria in the post COVID-19 era include improved healthcare and the economy.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in a virtual meeting (Tolani Alli)
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in a virtual meeting (Tolani Alli)

"First, we need to keep the virus under control. While our guards are still firmly in place, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a matter of utmost concern.”

He added that, “On this, we are encouraged by the efforts of the WHO (World Health Organisation) and other international agencies working to ensure that vaccine delivery will be equitable across all countries, regardless of the priority of orders and ability to pay.”

Debt relief

Underscoring the importance of prioritizing interventions and investments in the healthcare system, the vice president said: “we are encouraging private investment to upscale our health sector, with emphasis on improved facilities and affordable universal healthcare.”

While appreciating leaders across the world for their prompt response and cooperation in controlling the spread of COVID-19, Osinbajo said “the sheer scale of disruptions to our lives and livelihoods caused by COVID-19 certainly caught us all by surprise.”

Restating the call for debt relief for developing countries, the vice president said “the pandemic underscores the need for adequate financial buffers to cope with the ‘black swan’ events. For many developing countries, the debt burden makes this all but impossible.

"We call for debt relief for these countries, and the extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) at least until the end of 2021 as well as commercial debt relief where needed.”

President Muhammadu Buhari receiving briefings from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 led by SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu. [Twitter/@BashirAhmaad]
President Muhammadu Buhari receiving briefings from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 led by SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu. [Twitter/@BashirAhmaad]

The vice president had in previous international forums earlier in the year made a case for debt relief for developing countries, noting that “the Debt Servicing Support Initiative of the G20 is welcome and will no doubt bring some relief to relevant African countries.

"However, it remains inadequate because it does not address the problem of commercial debt service obligations.”

He assured that Nigeria stands with all countries of the world in the effort to eradicate the coronavirus, and leverage experiences for a healthier and more prosperous world.

The Paris Peace Forum is an annual event that features leaders and actors from civil society around the world with a focus on challenges facing the world - climate change, terrorism, migration, cyber insecurity, and global governance issues among others.

As of November 12, 2020, Nigeria has reported 64, 728 COVID-19 cases, 60, 790 recoveries and 1, 162 fatalities.