Do everything to disabuse COVID vaccine conspiracy theory, ECOWAS Parliament urges Members

From Linus Aleke, Marceline Ozekhome, Sierra Leone
The Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Rt. Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis has tasked Members of Parliament to assist governmet in the sub-region to dispel the toxic conspiracy theory that limit citizens of the community from accepting the COVID-19 vaccine.
He said that the discovery of the vaccine is a stunning scientific achievement, and a much-needed source of hope. 
The Speaker who gave this charge at the official opening of the 2021 First Extraordinary Session of ECOWAS Parliament in Freetown, said that there is the challenge of vaccine hesitancy within the population, due to conspiracy theorists.
“This would require the efforts of everyone, to educate our constituents on the safety and benefits of getting vaccinated once it is available. We must continue this campaign until such a time when we would have attained Herd Immunity,” he said. 
Hon. Tunis recalled that a year ago, the world came to its knees as a result of the emergence of a new virus that sparked a global pandemic.
He said: “Movements were halted, our way of life redefined, economies crumbled, hospitals and health systems got overwhelmed, lives were lost and hearts were filled with uncertainty.
“One year later, we are celebrating the development and approval of safe and effective vaccines after the emergence of a new virus. This is a stunning scientific achievement, and a much-needed source of hope. 
“I join other world leaders to commend the scientists and researchers for such brilliant and robust intervention at a time when the world needed it most. 
“I also commend the Governments and Philanthropic Organizations that invested huge resources towards the development of the new vaccine entities”.
He noted that while the world celebrate the development of vaccines, the parliamentarians are not insensitive to the new level of challenge that comes along, which is the emergence of the disparity between rich countries and poor nations who cannot procure for themselves. 
“Nevertheless, we thank the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France for bringing together Governments, Global Health Organizations, Manufacturers, Scientists, Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations, as well as Philanthropists, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, through the COVAX initiative. 
“This effort has proven to be a truly global solution to this pandemic, as it aims to ensure that people in all corners of the world get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth. 
“In our region, a few countries have started vaccinating their citizens. We are hopeful that other countries will join in as soon as possible,” he said.
While declaring the First  Extraordinary Session open, the President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Julius Madda Bio said that West Africa must strengthen healthcare and disaster management structures so that our societies are not easily amenable to future shocks. 
He disclosed that through proactive leadership and cooperation across states, the Community has kept case fatality ratios to very low levels.
According to the President, “Our resilient and indomitable spirit has served us well in our sub-region’s fight against COVID-19. 
“Some of our countries have eased restrictions on the movement of people within and across borders. We are now transitioning to a new phase in which we heighten prevention and protection protocols while we roll out vaccines. 
“Our countries have received some vaccines, thanks to the support of our various partners and international bodies. 
“I urge this august assembly to add its strong collective voice to appeals for redressing vaccine disparity and to fully support efforts to procure, supply, and administer safe and efficacious vaccines throughout our sub-region”.
He added that, “As nations in our community recover from the impact of COVID-19, I urge this body to support and cooperate on imbuing resilience and sustainability into our recovery and rebuilding efforts. 
“We must rebuild our economies mindful that there may be new possibilities, but equally so, lurking uncertainties with which we must contend. We must identify growth sectors and new opportunities in our post-COVID economies and leverage investments in areas that propel sustainable economic growth and inclusive development”.

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