Dr. Ifeanyi McWilliams Nsofor is currently the CEO of EpiAFRIC and director of policy and advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch hosting the 6th Health-meets-Tech Hackathon for the year 2021. In this exclusive interview, he gives his opinion on the distribution of covid-19 vaccines.
In March 2020, He was recognized by Onalytica as one of the Coronavirus Top 100 healthcare professionals globally. He was selected by NewAfrican Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Africans of 2020. He is a Senior New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at George Washington University.
He is a graduate of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Medical School. And in 2016, he was a DAAD Scholar for the Modern Teaching Methods short course at Ludwig-Maximillian University, Munich, Germany.
Following his review with CNBC Africa about Nigerian medical workers going on strike, we had time with him to discuss critical issues surrounding Covid-19 vaccination in Africa and the state of Nigeria’s healthcare sector:
Considering the low level of Covid-19 vaccination in Africa, do you think the continent should focus on manufacturing its own rather than fighting for equal distribution?
Vaccine manufacturing takes time and is for the long run. However, dealing with the current pandemic requires that there is Covid-19 vaccine equity. Some rich western nations have reserved more vaccines than is required to vaccinate their populations.
They have a moral obligation to share the excess. They should allow Africa to buy vaccines. They should contribute to COVAX. The U.S. is taking a lead in this area. Other richer western nations should take cue. There are already partnerships for vaccine manufacture on the continent – in Rwanda and Senegal. Such partnership should be led by the African Union working with national governments.
Outside the manufacturing of the Covid-19 vaccines and distribution, what would you say about the attitude of people towards being vaccinated?
There is Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy. Covid-19-related misinformation and disinformation make it more difficult for people to get vaccinated. However, I feel a more important issue is lack of access to Covid-19 vaccines in Africa. Vaccine nationalism limits total vaccines received on the continent.
However, within African countries, health authorities are not being proactive about taking vaccines to where people live and work. They wait for people to come to health Centres to be vaccinated. If we did house-to-house vaccinations for polio, then we should do the same for Covid-19 vaccinations. We should take vaccines to markets, malls, bus parks, churches, homes, mosques and other locations where people congregate.
We saw the recent 14,000 medical workers relieved of their jobs in Nigeria. What’s your take on this?
It is a ridiculous thing for the Nigerian government to do. About 40% of doctors trained in Nigeria have emigrated. More are emigrating. In fact, emigration of Nigerian doctors is an epidemic now. Sacking doctors because they are demanding for better salaries, improved conditions of service, better equipment and more is a shortsighted action. It is sad that a Nigerian doctor is paid a monthly hazard allowance of 5,000 naira (about $9). Doctors and other health workers cannot keep putting themselves in harm’s way for such pittance.
The government must recall all sacked doctors, pay them what they are being owed, improve their conditions of service and then ensure that they are held accountable for better patient outcomes. The health sector reform committee set up by President Buhari and headed by Vice-President Osinbajo has a good opportunity to improve the health system.
Thank you very much for speaking with us, Dr. Ifeanyi 🙂
By Elijah Christopher