The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday approved the immediate establishment of the Vaccine Revolving Fund to provide a common pool of financing for the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines.
The decision to establish the Fund was taken as part of the key resolutions during the 58th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS) held via videoconference on Saturday,
Presided by the Chair of the Authority, who is also the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, the communique issued at the end of the meeting said the ECOWAS Commission has already been directed to commence the process of getting the Fund established immediately.
The Fund, which would adopt the pooled procurement approach, would be deployed to secure the acquisition of anti-COVID-19 vaccines in the region through short and medium-to-long-term pooled procurement plans from regional manufacturers.
While calling on national governments, development banks, the private sector and partners to contribute to the Fund, the Heads of State said the Authority has also approved the immediate establishment of a COVID-19 Donor Working Group.
The Group expected to undertake the fundraising campaigns in the region and beyond would appoint eminent citizens from the respective member-States as investment champions to support the campaign.
Besides, the Authority also directed that the vaccination campaign to commence in the region latest by the end of June, 2021.
The Authority said the ECOWAS Commission has been directed to liaise with the West African Health Organization (WAHO) and member-states to source for about 240 million doses of World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved vaccines.
The Authority said the sourcing for the vaccines would be through direct and collaborative approaches with drug manufacturers, partners and friendly foreign governments that may be willing to sell extra doses that they may have pre-purchased.
To ensure the effective and equitable supply and distribution of the vaccines, the Authority said it has requested the ECOWAS Commission and WAHO to drive the process, in line with the COVAX Initiative.
In handling the assignment, the Authority said the Commission was directed to take into account the initiatives of member-states of ECOWAS at the continental and international levels, to ensure the availability of as many vaccines as possible.
On COVID-19 tests, the Authority said it resolved to cap the cost of COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests for ECOWAS nationals traveling within the region at about $50.
PCR and antibody testing are the dominant methods by most global healthcare systems to conduct tests on citizens for COVID-19.
There have been growing concerns in the region about the high cost of obtaining COVID-19 PCR tests in most countries of the region.
In Nigeria, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says the for obtaining the service in most approved private laboratories varies between N36,000 and N50,400.
To eliminate the challenges and difficulties often encountered by ECOWAS nationals traveling within the region, the Authority said the capping of the cost for COVID-19 test was in line with the approval granted for the harmonization of the ECOWAS Protocol for cross border movement of persons and goods during the pandemic.
While welcoming the successful handling of the COVID-19 situation by member-states so far through measures and initiatives to contain the pandemic, the Authority acknowledged Nigeria’s exemplary leadership through President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the Champion of the Fight against the disease.
The Summit applauded the three Ministerial Coordinating Committees on Health, Finance, Transport and Trade, as well as the ECOWAS Commission and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), for the ongoing efforts to implement the decisions of the Niamey Summit, particularly regarding the availability of COVID-19 vaccines for the region to contain the outbreak of a new COVID-19 wave in the ECOWAS region.