By Asmau Ahmad
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed Nigeria’s readiness to become a global hub for sustainable manufacturing and distribution of vaccine and biological pharmaceuticals to support initiatives to keep all of mankind safe.
He also called for the speedy take-off of local production of mRNA vaccines, after the World Health Organisation (WHO) selected Nigeria as one of six African countries to receive technology needed to produce the vaccines.
Addressing the World Bio Summit 2022 in Seoul, South Korea, President Buhari pledged commitment to global response to known or emerging pathogens, including the global vaccine assurance ecosystem and equitable access for all.
He told the meeting jointly convened by the Government of South Korea and WHO to discuss the future of vaccines and Bio-Health across the globe, that Nigeria would continue to explore bilateral, multilateral and other opportunities for cutting-edge technology as a centre of excellence for vaccine manufacturing and distribution.
“As the mRNA technology allows science to shift attention to yet unknown disease threats, we see opportunities to address diseases that have plagued sub-Saharan Africa and third world countries for centuries.
“We believe biomedical scientists can dream of ending the scourge of Malaria, Ebola, Lassa fever and various endemic neglected tropical diseases through development and manufacture of efficacious and affordable vaccines and therapeutics.
“Nigeria invites partners ready to support efforts towards the entire value chain of vaccine technology development in our continent, to consider working with us in Nigeria,” he said.
Noting that ongoing conversations on the future of vaccines tend to support the decentralization of capacity to produce essential materials to respond globally to pandemics, President Buhari expressed Nigeria’s preference for a global warehousing and supply chain strategy to attend to the needs of most countries.
“We believe that this concept makes sense and we fully endorse the wisdom of strategic and balanced spread of critical manufacturing capacity and essential stockpiles across the globe,” he said.
President Buhari, therefore, declared that Nigeria is ready and able to offer itself for this initiative, due to its strategic geographical location, strength of economy and market size derived from a population of over 214 million people.
He added that Nigeria’s comparative advantage is also supported from her experience in human and animal vaccine production record since 1924, when colonial authorities produced WHO-certified smallpox, yellow fever and anti-rabies vaccines locally – a technology that has been improved upon and being used in Jos, Plateau State of Nigeria.
“The high quality of current academic and research work and potential in Nigeria is also note-worthy,” he said.
The Nigerian leader used the occasion to reaffirm Nigeria’s position on equitable distribution of vaccines, citing lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic and the unpleasant experiences of developing countries.
Describing the global response to the pandemic as discriminatory, Buhari demanded that the world must not allow the serious public health failure to happen again.
President Buhari also recounted the efforts by his administration to mitigate the impact and curtail the spread of the virus in the country, highlighting that the positive exploits by the country were recognized and commended by the global health body.
President Buhari told the Summit, attended by Chief Executive Officers of Global Vaccines and Biologics Companies that undoubtedly, the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has jolted the collective consciousness of world leaders and the need to chart a better future.
On Nigeria’s quest to revive local vaccine production, President Buhari recounted that the Federal Government of Nigeria had ratified a Joint Venture Agreement with a leading Nigerian Pharma Company for a Public Private Enterprise.
He recalled that when WHO announced Nigeria as one of six African countries to receive technology to produce mRNA vaccines, in February 2022, Biovaccine Ltd facilitated the participation of Nigerian scientists in the ongoing vaccine production workforce training in Seoul, from June 2022, supported by the Korean Government.
As one of the six African countries selected to be the first on the continent to receive the technology needed to produce local mRNA vaccines from the WHO scheme, the President declared that Nigeria is taking steps to provide the needed infrastructure and requisite funding necessary for the implementation of this noble initiative.
“In this regard, a private pharmaceutical company to facilitate pharmaceutical production of the mRNA vaccines has been identified to pilot this project.While we express our appreciation, once more, to the WHO and other partners for selecting Nigeria, we would like to urge for the speedy take-off of this project in the interest of global health security.”