New Telegraph

Pfizer vaccine for the elite, China vaccine for the rest

One thing is constant in the human ecosystem – class struggle.

According to Karl Marx, “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles.”


There is perhaps, no other country where the fault lines of class are well accented like in Nigeria – where the rich secrete themselves in vulgar mansions with ramparts flanked by slums and where the elite hedge themselves about with phalanxes of police officers, and even conscripting the security officers into their household servantry.


But I think Nigeria is where there is ‘no’ class struggle. The deprived class have been viciously emasculated to even revolt against the predatory order.


The elite keep the people down, adding layers and layers of yokes on their burdened backs. Evenduringadeadlypandemic thatshould ordinarily unite humans of all classes, the emphasis on class is loud. I understand there were some isolation centres in Abuja, during thefirstwaveof theCOVID-19pandemic, unofficially designated as ‘big people’ centres.


Nigerians witnessed how relief items donated by a body of private organisations to attenuate the adverse economic impact of the pandemic on struggling citizens  were hoarded, and some of them diverted and appropriated by members of the elite. Some of these items were converted to personal tokens given to supporters as ‘empowerment package’.


The emphasis on class is becoming deafening as there are now vaccines against the infection. On Wednesday, Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, announced he has received the Pfizer vaccine in Dubai, United Arab Emirate.


“The importance of the #COVID19 vaccine in mitigating the effect of the coronavirus cannot be overstated, particularly in Africa and Nigeria. Yesterday (Wednesday), as part of the mass vaccination programme, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine,” Paul Ibe, the former vice-president’s spokesman, said.


There appears to be some sort of vaccine pilgrimage to Dubai by the Nigerian rich. ‘Vaccine tourism’ some call it. No one should be emotionally blackmailed for what their money can buy them – especially in matters of life and death like COVID-19. But members of the political class should not always pretend that they care about the people.


The Pfizer vaccine is the first and only vaccine to be granted emergency use authorisation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and according to Pfizer and BioNTech, it is 95 per cent effective.

About 100,000 doses of this vaccine are expected in the country at the end of January. And of course, you can bet it that the elite have already ‘scrambled and partitioned’ them. We have a very predatory elite class.


There is no altruism in the bones of the Nigerian elite. It is the ‘let me save myself while they perish’ psychology.


On Thursday, Faisal Shuaib, executive director and chief executive officer, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo would receive the COVID-19 vaccine on live television. Well, Senator Shehu Sani has thrown down the gauntlet.


He said: “No need to vaccinate the VIPs on live TV. Just do the right thing. When you vaccinate leaders with Pfizer, make sure the people are also vaccinated with Pfizer. When you vaccinate the people with Russian or Chinese vaccine, make sure the leaders are also vaccinated with the same brand.”


It makes sense that what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. Interestingly, Nigeria is expecting some doses of vaccines from China.


According to Geoffrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs, “China is also one of those countries that have been able to discover vaccines for COVID-19, so we are also engaging with China to also help with regards to access to vaccines for our people.”


CoronaVac is a Chinese vaccine by Sinovac, a Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company. Sinopharm, a Chinese company, is rolling out another vaccine. But these Chinese vaccines have not been given the ‘all-clear’ by some global health bodies.


Unlike the Pfizer vaccine that has the imprimatur of the WHO, the Chinese vaccines have been largely used within China.


The BBC in an analysis said it is hard to say at this point in time how effective CoronaVac is. It mentioned the scientific journal The Lancet as saying, “we currently only have information from the first and second phase trials of CoronaVac”. But China has already released the vaccine for public use – when there still is uncertainty about the third and most crucial stage.


So, who gets the globally certified Pfizer vaccine and who gets the ‘inchoate’ Chinese vaccine? Leaders must show personal example.


You cannot vaccinate yourself with a globally-approved vaccine, but release an ‘untested’ vaccine into the population. Again, what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.

• Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

He can be reached via his twitter handle: @FredrickNwabufo

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