By Asmau Ahmad
Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says Nigeria and the World Bank are collaborating to raise $30 million to finance a vaccine plant.
Osinbajo spoke on Monday in Abuja at the International Conference on Health Access and Socio-Economic Development Beyond Covid-19: The First Multisectoral Approach to Solution Finding.
The conference was organised by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD).
He said the global trend in health had made it critical for Nigeria to establish its own vaccine production facilities.
“Nigeria is in talks with the World Bank’s private lending arm and other lenders to raise about 30 million dollars to help finance a vaccine plant.
“Bio-vaccine Nigeria Limited is chaired by Prof. Oyewale Tomori; 49 per cent of the company is owned by the Nigerian government with the balance held by May and Baker Nigeria PLC and they have plans to begin construction of a plant.
“I believe in the first quarter of next year; the plant which is supposed to be located in Ota, Ogun State, will initially, we are told, fill and finish, which I’m also told, means importing the raw materials for the vaccines and then packaging them for distribution.
“Some South African companies are already involved in doing exactly that; I believe Aspen Pharmacare and Belvac Institute operate similar facilities.
“Full manufacturing, we are told, is expected to follow in the coming months or years; I am not entirely certain, when. So, it is evident that the way forward is more funding for healthcare and research for innovators to develop solutions in pharmaceuticals and medical consumables.”
The vice president said that by the discussion he had with NIPRD Director-General, Dr Obi Adigwe, he was inspired by the potential and the kind of support that the pharmaceutical industry and research agencies would require.
Prof. Osinbajo said that the Federal Government had established the Healthcare Sector Intervention Fund Facility which had disbursed N76.9 billion, about 185 million dollars, to finance the acquisition and installation of critical medical care equipment.
He said that the fund was also for the expansion of production lines in various pharmaceutical companies across the country.
According to him, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is also supporting a number of research and development initiatives in the health sector as it had disbursed a total of N233 billion in grants.
Osinbajo said that NIPRD was also making immense contributions in developing local cure for COVID-19.
Earlier, in his welcome address, the NIPRD Director-General, Dr Obi Adigwesaid that the conference was the first of its kind to gather multidisciplinary scholars to engage, innovate and synthisise new approaches to solving global health challenges.
The keynote speaker, Prof. Joseph Fortunak, who spoke virtually, said that COVID-19 exposed the vulnerability of pharmaceutical supply chain and urged Nigeria to take the manufacture of drugs seriously.