Reject Covifenz vaccine on COVID-19 – Gov’t told

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Covifenz Vaccine
Covifenz Vaccine

The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a civil society organization has called on the Government to reject Canada-made COVID-19 vaccine (Covifenz) if offered.

It said by doing so the government would be honouring its World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) obligation.

The WHO has declined all requests to approve the vaccine for entry on the WHO’s COVID-19 Emergency Use Listing (EUL).

The call was made in a press release signed by Mr Labram Musah, the Executive Director of Programmes of VALD and copied to the Ghana News Agency.

It said the Quebec-based pharmaceutical company, Medicago has produced first Canada-made COVID-19 vaccine (Covifenz) in support of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The WHO’s refusal to approve this vaccine is due to Medicago’s ties with Philip Morris International, one of the world’s leading tobacco companies and a major shareholder in Medicago. Hence, the WHO in its expression of interest phase has labeled the Covifenz vaccine ‘not accepted’ on its website dated March 2, 2022,” it stated.

The release said this decision by the WHO has received support from various public health groups in Canada and across the globe; calling on the Canadian government to find an appropriate investor to replace Philip Morris as a major shareholder in Medicago.

“It is indeed an irony that an industry that kills over seven million smokers and 1.2 million people exposed to secondhand smoke annually wishes to lead the way in solving the coronavirus pandemic; when its own products pose deadly health threats indifferently,” it stated.

The release said among several oppositions to smoking reduction measures was Philip Morris’ dream of modifying tobacco into a supposed “less harmful” smoke-free product; Ghana cannot participate in this cunning approach of the tobacco industry to position themselves as “partners of government” on public health issues.

“It rather seems like a subtle way of growing its influence and widening its reach,” it stated.

The release said Ghana had come a long way in the fight against tobacco with the passage of the Tobacco Control Measures and the adoption of the Tobacco Control Regulations in 2012 and 2016 respectively.

It stated: “Concurrently, as a party of the 182 signatories to the WHO FCTC, Ghana must remain committed to its obligations including Article 5.3 which obliges parties to ensure that their policies are protected ‘from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.’”

The release said the guidelines for implementing this obligation made it clear that “the tobacco industry should not be a partner in any direct conflict with the goals of public health.

“We, therefore, echo the voices of public health advocates globally and call on Ghana to avoid any ties with the Covifenz vaccine and future partnerships that violate its FCTC obligations.

“With at least nine other WHO-approved safe and effective vaccines such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson among others in the COVAX kitty, Ghana should decline any offer to accept vaccines tainted with the tobacco industry’s funding,” it urged.

The VALD commended WHO for the bold decision and entreated Government of Ghana to stand with the WHO and reject the Covifenz vaccines when offered so that the control of the COVID-19 pandemic would not compromise the battle against tobacco.

“It is time for stringent legislation and actions to hold the tobacco industry responsible for the harm they cause to health, the economy, and the environment; they are a threat to our very existence,” it stated.

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