The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, and other Directors from the agency, the EU Ambassador and other EU colleagues, the Head of the Department of Health of UNICEF, Dr. Eduardo Celades, and Dr. Paula Beltrán, the Deputy Country Representative of the World Health Organization, Mr. Chimbaru, dear friends:
We are most pleased, and if you allow, a little proud, to be handing over this morning 4.4 million vaccines to the Nigerian authorities, our largest donation to an African country, and that takes us over 70 million vaccines donated worldwide.
Spain is not alone in this endeavor. This donation is part of a larger one together with the EU and other member states, and a very fine example of the many things that we do as Team Europe in Nigeria.
When visiting Nigeria’s cold storage facilities and seeing all those vaccines, we become aware of the long way that lays ahead to get them into people’s arms.
That is why I want to praise the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and its Executive Director, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, and UNICEF for their tireless campaign to get Nigeria vaccinated against Covid 19.
We speak at a time of what they call pandemic fatigue, when images of a mask free world can give us the false impression that this is over. Faced with worrisome figures of vaccine hesitance, we need to change the narrative and insist in that if restrictions are being lifted, it is because we have done the right things and the first one is to have people vaccinated.
This has been a long fight for the International Community and for each and every country. In 2020 the goal was to develop an effective vaccine, in 2021 the challenge was to produce and distribute it, today in 2022 we need to put those vaccines within people’s reach, and strengthening public health systems is vital to achieve it.
As we want to leave the acute phase of the pandemic behind, we dare not linger and there are lessons to be learnt.
One of them is the need to improve global mechanisms for technology transfer to decentralize the production of health products in all regions, Africa in particular. And that is why Spain has joined the WHO Technology Access Group.
And that is also why the EU has launched a Team Europe Initiative on manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa, with 1 billion euros, and that will benefit Nigeria.
And we need to protect, safeguard and to invest in health and health workers, and this is the effort line that Spain is co-leading in the framework of the Global Action Plan, and we have committed 300 million euros for further donations and projects to strengthen public health systems.
While we look at those many hills still to be climbed, we can also celebrate today’s particular milestone: 4,400,000 Nigerians (since we are donating mono-dose vaccines) will be safer.
I want to again thank the Nigerian Primary Health Development Agency and UNICEF for making it possible.