In an effort to provide adequate financial and fiscal incentives to vaccine producers to facilitate an indigenous coronavirus vaccine, the Nigerian government has announced a 10 billion Naira fund to support domestic vaccine production to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
This disclosure was made by the Health Minister, Dr.OsagieEhanire, at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) briefing, in Abuja. The honourable Minister also made it known that while the nation explores the option of developing its own vaccines, other options of licensed production of vaccines in collaboration with recognized institutions are also being explored.
“Apart from the COVAX facility, which is billed to cover vaccination of just 20% of our population, we plan to increase our chances of getting enough vaccines to meet the country’s need to cover an additional 50% of the population”, he stated.
As the world scrambles for the Covid-19 vaccine and global supply chain begins to fracture, developing countries are being priced out of the market or placed at the end of the list of recipients for a future Covid-19 vaccine, necessitating the urgency for these countries to focus on local production of vaccines.
Africa has traditionally lagged in vaccine development and manufacturing. As of 2017, there were 8 vaccine manufacturers in Africa, only two of which performed all aspects of the vaccine manufacturing process, from active ingredient production to the final packaging.
The Covid-19 pandemic has, no doubt, tipped the scales in favour of accelerating local vaccine production in Africa as the Africa CDC has identified several companies in Africa it could work with to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines.
In Nigeria, a number of projects handled through the Biovaccines Initiative to domesticate Covid-19 vaccine production are underway. Following the revised GAVI transition plan 2018-2028 for Nigeria, the Board of BVNL has a mandate to revive local vaccines production in the country, and is well on track with that plan.
Dr.Ehanire also adviced that while the prospect of a vaccine arriving soon is cheering, the importance of non-pharmaceutical measures remains critical to preventing infections. “Wear your face masks, wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizers, avoid close contacts and crowded places and if you have symptoms like cough, difficulty in breathing, sudden loss of taste and smell, and fever, please get tested,” the Hon. Minister advised.