March 31, 2021

President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, H.E.  Jean-Claude Kassi Brou has taken time to explain some of the actions that the regional body has taken with regards to making the COVID-19 vaccine available to member states.

H.E Brou was speaking in a post-opening ceremony of the 2021 First Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament at a Press Conference in Freetown, Sierra Leone, held on Monday, March 29, 2021 at the Bintumani Hotel, Aberdeen.

Responding to some of the questions from journalists across the sub-region, the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic was raised, especially the lots of controversies over the vaccine rollout at a time that the pandemic has been a stumbling block to the activities of the ECOWAS Commission and that of the Parliament.

When asked about what the Commission has been doing to ensure the availability and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for the people in the sub-region, H.E. Brou said the question is a very important one as it is linked to the pandemic which has affected the region for over a year (February/March 2020) now.

“COVID-19 is a health and also an economic issue that has created difficulties for our member countries. From the beginning, if you can recall there was an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of States specifically to deal with the COVID-19 situation,” H.E. Brou said.

He further noted that, during the meeting, the Heads of States took a very critically important decision and appointed President Buhari of Nigeria to Coordinate the Regional Response as each member country was having its own national program to deal with the pandemic; adding, “but you know the virus does not stop at the border, so we need the collective regional effort to address the issue and that was what was done. “

“There were three Coordinating Committees particularly on health – with all the fifteen Health Ministers meeting with the Director-General of West African Health Organisation (WAHO). A series of actions have been taken, I can remember last year many actions were taken in terms of the response, dropdown and so on. This year, we are moving with the issue of the vaccine that has started and many countries have started the vaccination process. The developers started in November and December of last year and we, through the COVAX mechanism are now having it”.

In West Africa, we have received some vaccines and many West African countries have started the vaccine process but during the meeting of the Heads of State in January 2021, they decided that we should have a revolving fund to address the issue of mobilizing resources to complement the availability of vaccine for the region, he stated.

And this is being done between WAHO, ECOWAS Commission, and the ECOWAS Investment Bank. We have been holding meetings to prepare, the idea is to see how we can complement the supply of the COVAX vaccine, complement what member countries themselves have to provide in terms of vaccine availability and try to bring support.

“Again, remember that last year, the ECOWAS Commission and WAHO have been able to distribute to all the member countries with specific supply of COVID-19 related materials. We are working on a vaccine and hopefully, in a few weeks or months, we will be able to provide some more specific results.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/