COVID-19 Vaccines: Finance Minister Worried over Logistics, Access

Zainab Ahmed

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, has expressed concern over the modalities in addressing access of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa.

She observed that the process has been difficult to navigate in view of the financing of vaccines for Africa and the approach to addressing access, delivery and uptake on the continent.

Speaking at a virtual high-level dialogue on ‘Financing C-19 Vaccines for Africa: A Whole of Africa Approach to Addressing Vaccine Access, Delivery and Uptake,’ she raised issues bordering on the modalities.

It was the first Africa-led summit to be held in the COVID-19 era, where African organisations featured key world players to strategise and shape solutions with African leaders.

The meeting was convened by CONVINCE Africa and Wilton Park and brought together African ministers of finance and health with leaders of key multilateral institutions and senior representatives from the donor community to take a whole-of-Africa-led approach to financing access, delivery and uptake for COVID-19 vaccines for the continent.

Ahmed said: “What exactly are the existing mechanisms for countries to access? We have had bits and pieces of information, but to date, this has not been as coordinated as hoped.

“Understanding the urgency of the moment, there needs to be greater inclusion and involvement of finance ministers, as budgetary allocations need to be made and financing secured both locally and possibly internationally.”

Ahmed noted that against the backdrop of real time challenges in preparing for the receipt of COVID-19 vaccines, roll out, and the real time information and funding gaps, access to vaccine financing should be simplified, while an act of global solidarity should be to support finance ministries with the necessary capacity required to complete what could often be a complex and laborious bureaucratic process.

She called for transparency and support to address gaps, noting that “COVID-19 is a multi-sectoral issue; it is a health crisis that has metamorphosed into an economic crisis and must be addressed with urgency collaboratively.”

Welcoming the opportunity to dialogue with one another as well as with many international partners and friends to find joint solutions to the pandemic “and enable us recover and build back quickly,” she said the continent looks forward to a commitment of greater transparency of information for future planning across health and finance and potential mechanisms for such transparency and information sharing.

In a statement issued by her Special Adviser, Media and Communications, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi
the minister called for proposals from banks on how countries could access finance mechanisms and support from other sources to help ministries of finance to easily and quickly apply for such funding.

According to her, funding needs to be flexible to support purchase or delivery (health systems) and possible corporate social responsibility (CSR) from banks.
Collectively, participants at the meeting expressed gratitude for the over 20 per cent proposed COVAX donation to low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

“But we need to fully protect our populations and also restart African economies. Therefore, 20 per cent is not enough, and we must support African efforts to vaccinate at least 60 per cent of our populations,” they said.
While endorsing procurement through African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) as a very welcome initiative, they said it has “harnessed our joint negotiating power and reduces costs.”

They asked multilateral institutions, banks and bilateral partners to join hands with them to ensure not only the availability of vaccines, but are able to deliver all the way through to community level.
They also called on high income countries to support the initiative of Africans helping Africa and as well as to consider the not inconsiderable costs of vaccine delivery.

The participants equally welcomed the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance (AVDA), which they said, will go a long way in providing local solutions to meeting the gaps in logistics and delivery across the continent, adding that not all countries have the capacity to deliver even the donated vaccines.