By Abujah Racheal, Abuja.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, says the N10 billion earmarked in 2020 by the Federal Government for local production of vaccines is still intact.
The minister gave the assurance on Tuesday in Abuja, at the ministerial bi-weekly update meeting on COVID-19 response.
Ehanire said that the country had found partners to import the technology needed to produce the vaccines.
He said: “We are as prepared as we can be, we are also pursuing capacity to produce vaccine biotech.
“Visitors from the Serum Institute of India are going to be technical partners of Bio-Vaccine Nigeria Limited.
“Nigeria is a 49-per-cent shareholder in a company called Bio-Vaccine Nigeria Limited, and Bio-Vaccine is a revival of the former vaccine plants that the Federal Government used to have.
“The private sector was invited to join and form a special purpose vehicle – a company called Bio-Vaccine. This was conceived before COVID-19.
“However, the joint venture was stalled because of the outbreak – when there was a lockdown and when nothing could move.”
According to the minister, there has been a lot of delays which stalled the company’s take-off.
“With the outbreak of COVID-19, all countries were looking forward to vaccines, including Nigeria. Therefore, the aspiration to produce vaccines has not been fulfilled.
“We are working on it and I have spoken with one of the members of the board of Bio-Vaccine.
“We are working on getting that technology to both produce routine vaccines and also COVID-19 vaccines, under licence, and importation of the technology and partnership for it,” Ehanire said.
The minister added that local vaccine production was a priority of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
“This is one reason the country has been engaging partners of interest in actualising this very important project,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Bassey Okposen, Director, Disease Control and Immunisation, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), has emphasised the importance of COVID-19 vaccination across the country.
Okposen said that over 70 million COVID-19 vaccines hade so far been administered to Nigerians.
“As of Sept. 12, in 36 states of the Federation and the FCT, about 33. 8 million of total eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated.
“12.9 million of total eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are partially vaccinated,” he said.
The director also noted that millions of children in the country still missed out on basic childhood vaccines every year and urged parents to get their children vaccinated.
“Getting your child vaccinated is the best way to give every child a healthy start to life and protect them against preventable diseases from birth to old age,” Okposen said.