By Chioma Iruke
Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo has called on the private sector to take initiatives in ensuring that the country is self-sufficient in the basic production of drugs.
The VP said although Nigeria had received help from friendly nations and the Covax alliance, less than four percent of its eligible population would have been vaccinated by the end of the year.
Osinbajo said this on Monday in Abuja at the International Conference on Health Access beyond COVID-19, a statement from the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, on Tuesday said.
“Although we have received some help from friendly nations and the Covax alliance, less than four per cent of our eligible population will have been vaccinated by the end of the year. There is no question that we cannot afford not to have our own vaccine production facilities,” he said.
Osinbajo also called for a private sector-led initiative to make the country self-sufficient in basic drugs’ production and in being a net exporter to Africa, noting that Nigeria had the human capital to build a more efficient health care system.
“Nigeria is in talks with the World Bank’s private lending arm and other lenders to raise about $30m to help finance a vaccine plant, Biovaccines Nigeria Limited, chaired by Prof Oyewale Tomori; 49 per cent of the company is owned by the Nigerian government, with the balance held by May & Baker Nigeria Plc. There are plans to begin construction of the plant in the first quarter of next year,” Osinbajo stated.
He also revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime had, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) disbursed N233bn in grants to support a number of research and development initiatives in the health sector.
While highlighting Nigeria’s strengths in healthcare, the vice president maintained that the country must take its own destiny in its hands, build local capacities that would ensure health access to the people, and take advantage of the opportunity to become a leading nation in healthcare.
“Every nation is on her own in a global pandemic, and looking at how vaccine-rich nations at some point even banned exports in order to meet local needs, it is clear that we must take our destiny in our own hands. And there is great potential.
“Last December, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research launched a new set of COVID-19 test kits that can produce results in 57 minutes. The new kit was designed by Joseph Shaibu, a molecular virologist at the NIMR.
“The healthcare system of our dreams is ahead of us; we know what we want and what is possible. We have the men and women with the required expertise; what we need is more diligent and focused management,” he added.