By Ndidi Chukwu
Vaccine development in Nigeria has the potential to improve the nation’s health and at the same time make the country a business hub for vaccines in Africa if the current effort to create a good business environment which could attract investors into the country is taken serious. Experts are looking towards innovations that could spur private sectors into local vaccine production in Nigeria when the Federal Ministry of Health finally develops a policy plan for local vaccine production.
This prospect would be catalysed by the commitment of different government agencies working on research and development to make the business environment attractive to foreign and local investors who would wish to take advantage of the nation’s population for business.
Several reason halted talks about vaccine production in Nigeria in the 1970s, but the nation has woken up to its call, “talks are cheap results are essential” said Director General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) Professor Lucy Ogbadu. This is the time for Nigeria to work beyond what is written on paper and get practical with this vision which started over four decades ago.
“it is important for us to begin the production of vaccines if you look at the finances that go into vaccine procurement in Nigeria, we would ask ourselves why the setback all these years” Ogbadu said in a meeting with members of National Vaccine Financing Task Team (NIFT) in Abuja.
Ogbadu said “talks about local vaccine production has been long, we came on board to meet the various efforts that are being made, these are national programmes that stand to move the nation forward, there are people that would not want this project to go on but all members who are committed to this effort must work assiduously towards the implementation of this goal”
She said Nigeria has a well written document for vaccine production and would need to go back to the drawing board to work with what is available “it is my wish that this project will not be buried again, vaccine is for the prevention of disease and the improvement of the health of the nation and it is our mandate to move this effort forward” she added.
The Nation has had 60 Percent dependency on donors who funds vaccines, but there are scepticisms if the funding would continue coming, “the vaccine system will collapse if partners stop funding, this is the reason why we need to begin local production as soon as possible” said Dr. Ben Anyene NIFT Chairman.
This justifies the need for local production, over 7.5 million Nigerian children need vaccines annually, with adult polls included, experts project a huge business pull in Nigeria. Nigeria’s population leverages for lead in sub-saharan African vaccine manufacturing “if Nigeria can make vaccines for itself or make it an open market for Africa, we would be decongesting the global market traffic” said Anyene.
Already investors like the General Electric (GE) are indicating interests, experts are hopeful that this milestone will be achieved in Nigeria.