Nigerian researchers have expressed optimism over the plans of the Federal Government to begin vaccine production locally.
According to them, there are people with expertise and experience in the area of vaccine production in the country.
With the right resources and enabling environment, the virologists said the research, production and clinical trials will be complete within a year.
A Professor of Virology, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, stated that Nigeria had a lot of experts and talented people who could produce the vaccines, adding that many Nigerians outside the country were relevant in other countries in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He, however, charged the government to provide an enabling environment and the resources for the production the vaccines.
He said,“Nigeria has the talents, capacity and expertise to produce the COVID-19 vaccines but we are not creating the enabling environment for the talents to thrive.
“No country started with any laboratory, they built one. If we create the right environment, we can build a laboratory. We must have that determination; because we don’t use our money the way we are supposed to, that is why we are here today.”
Tomori, who is the Chair of Nigeria Expert Review Committee on Poliomyelitis Eradication and Routine Immunisation, stated that Nigeria was renowned for the production of yellow fever vaccines in the past as vials of the vaccine were produced in a vaccine production laboratory in Yaba, Lagos State.
The Federal Government, two days ago, announced the release N10 billion to support local production of vaccines.
He explained that the N10 billion for local vaccine production, was released by the Ministry of Finance and would be used to explore “options for licensed production in collaboration with recognised institutions.”
Also, a Virologist at the National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom, Dr Solomon Chollom, shared the same sentiments with Tomori, saying Nigerian scientists had the capacity to produce vaccines.
However, Chollom noted that the country had no functional laboratory for vaccine production but animal vaccines were being actively produced at the Veterinary Research Institute in Vom, Jos.
He charged the government to provide the funds and resources in establishing a human vaccine production lab, saying it would be useful in the development of vaccines to prevent morbidity associated with other vaccine preventable diseases.
Chollom noted that vaccines produced in the country would be more effective as the variants specific to Nigeria would be utilized in its development.
He said, “The advantages of developing our vaccines are numerous. We will be able to use our local strains for the vaccine development; this will enable us to address our local challenges. The vaccines we are importing were made in Europe using their strains.
“We cannot guarantee that the variants they have there are the same with what we are having here. There may be a mismatch of strains and anti-genes and that will not amount to full response when the vaccines are administered.”
A Pharmacist from the University of Nsukka, Peculiar Onyekere, said though the vaccine production locally was a good vision, considering the urgency of the COVID 19 vaccine, the country did not have all the resources required to produce one.
Highlighting the requirements for the production of an efficacious and safe vaccine, he said, “First, there is need to develop a good process for manufacturing the vaccine and establish a standard protocol for the production of the vaccine.
“Looking at the situation as a country, we need to liaise with other international organisations that are already into the production of the vaccines like the African Union initiative, United States Pharmacopeia and other international regulatory bodies in order to produce vaccines that will be safe.”
Vaccine production lab, Yaba shut since ‘90s
In 1940, Nigeria started local production of vaccines for anti-rabies, smallpox and yellow fever vaccines at the Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory, Yaba, Lagos, in commercial quantities.
The vaccines from the lab were used in 1986 to mitigate the yellow fever outbreak.
However, in 1991, the vaccine production plant was shut down for renovation and upgrading but production did not resume there for several years despite an agreement signed by the Federal Government in 2017 with May and Baker to resuscitate the facility and commence vaccine production.
FG budgets N4.79bn for vaccine imports
Meanwhile, analyses of the 2021 budget for Nigeria showed that N4.79bn had been allocated for the research, importation of vaccines and logistics for the routine immunisation.
Checks showed that the Ministry of Health has been allocated N772.47million this year for procurement and other associated cost of vaccine importation.
National Primary Health Care Development Agency would be spending N4.01bn for the same purpose while the National Animal Product Research Institute will spend N10m on importation of animal vaccines.
Findings showed that local production of HPV, Hepatitis B and C as well as Paediatric vaccines would gulp N13.58million.
However, the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, last week had said the Federal Government was working on a supplementary budget proposal to accommodate purchase of additional coronavirus vaccine doses from foreign pharmaceutical companies.
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