CSO urges FG to stick to WHO regulation on Philip Morris COVID-19 Vaccine


By Arodiegwu Eziukwu

Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has urged the Nigerian government to maintain World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations on approvals for COVID-19 vaccines.

The Civil Society Organisation (CSO) claimed that there was the possibility of the Canadian government to lobby Nigeria to accept the Medicgo COVID 19 vaccine (Covifenz) which the WHO has not approved.

The group in a statement by Philip Jakpo, Director of Programmes, CAPPA on Tuesday stated that WHO refused to approve the Medicago vaccine because Philip Morris is a major shareholder in the pharmaceutical company.

“Public health groups across the globe including in Canada support the WHO decision and have called on the Canadian government to find a suitable investor to replace Philip Morris in the company’s shareholding.

“Medicago has equally signaled that it is seeking alternative investors and want the Canadian and Quebec governments to help facilitate such a transition. Unfortunately, the transition has not happened,” the statement read in part.

CAPPA said that as signatory to the WHO’s first public health treaty – the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) Nigeria should remain committed to its obligations.

According to the CSO, obligations include Article 5.3 which advised Parties to insulate their public health policy from the vested and commercial interests of the tobacco industry.

It noted that guidelines for implementing the obligations make clear that “the tobacco industry should not be a partner in any initiative linked to setting or implementing public health policies, given that its interests are in direct conflict with the goals of public health.”

The organisation said that parties are directed that they “should not endorse, support, form partnerships with or participate in activities of the tobacco industry described as socially responsible.”

The statement quoted CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi as saying: “In as much as we appreciate the Canadian government for supplying COVID-19 Vaccines to Nigeria.

“We urge our government to be circumspect and ensure the product is not the Philip Morris funded Covifend.

“An industry that kills its customers and the rest of us who are exposed to tobacco via secondhand smoke cannot lead the way in solving either the tobacco menace or the coronavirus pandemic.“

Oluwafemi explained that Philip Morris is primarily a manufacturer of lethal products and continues to actively oppose smoking reduction measures across the globe.

He said the opposition moves in Nigeria where its executives through well publicized articles promote heated tobacco products as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

According to him, in an initiative called the Conrad Nigeria Challenge, Philip Morris-funded Foundation for Smokefree World (FSFW) supports young people in the education sector who are subtly brainwashed into believing that the tobacco company is socially responsible and a stakeholder in public good.

“With at least nine other WHO-approved vaccines that are not tainted by tobacco companies’ funding in COVAX kitty, Nigeria is not obliged to accept vaccines tainted with industry funding.

“In fact, Nigeria can contact COVAX directly to obtain the approved products” Oluwafemi said.

Oluwafemi said rather than pose as a front for Philip Morris that the Canadian government should stand for public health by replacing Philip Morris shareholding in Medicago and stop partnerships that violate its FCTC Obligations.

“The control of one pandemic should not compromise another. COVID 19 vaccines or any other health product from companies with ties to the tobacco industry are not welcome in Nigeria.

“The acceptance of the Philip Morris vaccine and its use violates the FCTC Article 5.3.”, he insisted,” he said

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