NIGERIA – The ministry of health in conjunction with local and international partners has convened a 2-day Stakeholders’ Validation Meeting bringing together experts to plot on Nigeria’s quest to attain success and self-sufficiency in local vaccine production.
The event which kicked off on Monday, 6 September, 2021 brings together experts from different sections of the nation’s health industry as well as representatives of international development agencies such as the WHO, UNICEF, USAID, Bloom Public Health and CHAI.
Welcoming guests, Director, Food and Drugs Department of the Federal Ministry of Health, Pharm. Olubukola Ajayi, who also represented the honourable Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, thanked participants and all those who made the event possible.
She stated that putting together the Nigeria Vaccine Policy was a product of collaborations with a team of technocrats from allied health institutions. According to her, all state ministries of health are being carried along as soft copies of the policy document have been sent to them for necessary inputs.
On the other hand, WHO consultant, Dr Omotayo Hamzat, stressed the need for all stakeholders to pursue the project beyond just a mere policy document. He called on government and other stakeholders to ensure a strict implementation of the policy.
On his part, Lead Consultant, Pharm. Umar Kawu, outlined the intrinsic value in the vaccine policy, adding that the policy should not be monopolistic but generic, inclusive and nationalistic in outlook, irrespective of the MoU between the Federal Ministry of Health and Biovaccines.
In August, Nigeria initiated talks with the World Bank and other lenders to raise about US$30 million to help finance a vaccine plant, three decades after the nation’s only production facility was shut.
Biovaccines Nigeria Ltd, which is 49% owned by the Nigerian government with the balance held by May & Baker Nigeria Plc, plans to begin construction of the plant in the first quarter of next year, said Oyewale Tomori, chairman of Biovaccines.
The coronavirus pandemic laid bare the desperate need for a local facility for Africa’s most-populous nation, which depends on imports for all its inoculations.
Biovaccines is in talks with companies in India and Indonesia to transfer technology, Tomori said. The plant in Otta, in the nation’s southwest Ogun State will initially “fill and finish” vaccines while full manufacturing “will come with time” and in collaboration with foreign partners, he said.
The plan is to manufacture vaccines against common diseases including yellow fever and measles, Tomori said. Biovaccines is discussing with the government to expand the mandate to include production of Covid-19 vaccines, which wasn’t in the original joint venture agreement.
Professor Chimezie Anyakora, CEO, Bloom Public Health, also called for a level playing ground in the implementation of the policy, especially as it concerns local manufacturing.
“There will be a level playing ground in order to ensure sustainability. There is no intention to promote monopoly through the joint venture with Biovaccines. We shall carry everyone along in this project and the ultimate agenda is to ensure a robust vaccine policy for Nigeria.”