The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), has said that emphasis is now shifting from the urgency for the country to manufacture its own vaccines, to having the basic technology to know how to produce vaccines.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja at the bi-weekly Ministerial Press briefing on COVID-19 and other infectious diseases in the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Finance, announced the sum of N10 billion for the production of vaccines in Nigeria, to fight coronavirus.
Following the announcement of the disbursement of the sum to the Ministry of Health for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Joint Committee scheduled a meeting with the Ministers of Finance and Health for clarifications on the funds.
On May 11, 2021, The Minister of Health, Ehanire, said that the N10 billion earmarked by the National Assembly for the local production of COVID-19 vaccines was intact while explaining why local manufacturing of the COVID-19 vaccines cannot start in the country at the moment as the world continues to fight vaccines nationalism.
On April 21, 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari, directed the Minister of Health, to submit a progress report by the end of May 2022 on the indigenous production of vaccines in the country.
During the bi-weekly meeting, responding to a question by the NAN correspondent, the minister said Nigeria is yet to make do with the 39,800,000 doses of vaccines procured by the Federal Government – The single-shot J&J vaccine through the African Vaccine Acquisition Team (AVAT) of the African Union, a facility provided by AFREXIMBANK,”.
“The country has been making use of donated vaccines,“ he said, indicating that Nigeria has learnt key lessons from the pandemic, including that countries must look inward for medical supplies and other health commodities.
“So the urgency to be producing our vaccines now is a bit reduced because we still have few donations. We have the ones that the government has procured that we are yet to use. The urgency is now to have the technology to know how to produce vaccines.
“So we have brought together all our experts, including the producers of vaccines and manufacturers to find a way to have the technology in case of future outbreaks.
“We’re bringing together all our research capacities or assets, to have that knowledge, that skill or the technology for indigenous domestic vaccines production in case of any other such attacks,” he explained.
The minister said that the Technical Working Group (TWG) on local vaccine manufacturing would pursue that avenue for research and development.
According to him, “what is clear is that there’ll be days for the vaccine. There is also research going on in different countries trying to find the same vaccines and Nigeria wants to be part of that research, such as development efforts. For us to be part of it, we must have the technology, knowledge and all other requirements.”
Speaking on Mr President’s directive, Ehanire said the directive was given when the leadership of the Nigerian Integrated Biopharmaceuticals Industries Consortium, visited him to discuss vaccine manufacturing in the country.
The minister said that the FMOH has continued to drive collaboration with investors for vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices, in a move towards self-sufficiency in the country.
NAN recalls that the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) had said “boosting local vaccine production will save lives, boost public health and strengthen the region’s economy.”
WAHO said that this would also encourage job creation and trigger technology sharing for the overall development of the region, indicating that this was why the region constituted the Regional Taskforce to conduct a feasibility study on vaccine production.
It added that the key to a successful local vaccine manufacturing was the market, which the region already has.
“The decision of the 58th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authorities of Heads of State and Government held virtually on January 21, 2021, was to develop a strategy for the availability of anti-COVID-19 vaccines in the ECOWAS region and establish the Regional Revolving Fund for the pooled procurement mechanism to accelerate access to vaccines.
“The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Preventive (Africa CDC and African Vaccines Manufacturing (PAVM)-Framework for Action meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda, from Dec. 6 to 7, 2021, on the fourth objective was to build the momentum of vaccine manufacture hubs and pilot a drug API-final drug product Hub programme – Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API). “
The member states have also aligned their national and regional policies and strategies around local production, noting that this would help economies of all sizes build synergies, share the workload and avoid costly duplication.
The ECOWAS region shares 35 per cent of vaccine market volume demand on the African continent, driven by population size.