Monday, July 4, 2022

10 Years After, Nigeria Still Lags Behind In Local Vaccine Production

Vaccine

The Federal Government of Nigeria has been advised to implement one of the commitments it made at the Vaccine Summit which entails vaccine research and development, as well as local production of vaccines. 

The government’s commitment was brought to the fore again by the executive director, Centre for Accountability and Inclusive Development (CAAID), Aanu’ Rotimi, during a roundtable and media engagement organised by Vaccine Network for Disease Control and CAAID yesterday in Abuja.

The discourse, held in commemoration of the 2022 World Immunisation/African Vaccination Week and titled “10 years after the National Vaccine Summit: Journey so far towards IA2030”, highlighted some of the progress made so far, analysed the 12 commitments, presented scorecards on each commitment and emphasised those in need of urgent action.

While enumerating the 12 commitments on vaccination made 10 years ago, Rotimi hinted that a major commitment that will define progress for Nigeria is the country’s local production of vaccines and this hasn’t been achieved. 

“It’s 10 years since the national vaccine summit held. We are taking stock to ascertain if we are making progress. We needed to monitor our milestones, identify our successes and areas that require more work. [It is good that] We have been able to eradicate the wild polio virus.

“Vaccine financing is still a challenge. Also, there is not much to show for the commitment to local vaccine production. There are still gaps identified within the commitment to introduce new vaccines, adulthood vaccines and country ownership of vaccines. These gaps need to be addressed,” Rotimi said. 

Speaking on the successes 10 years after the Vaccine Summit, the chief executive officer of Vaccine Network for Disease Control, Chika Offor, highlighted that the achievements to include the eradication of the wild polio virus, introduction of new vaccines into the routine immunisation programme, inclusion of insurance in the vaccination and engagement of religious leaders. 

She added that after the integration of polio into routine immunisation, it is critical to maintain surveillance to ensure wild polio virus does not resurface, hence the need for children who take vaccines to complete their dosages. 

“It is time for Nigeria, the Giant of Africa, to take charge of her vaccine story and produce her own vaccine, as she has the capacity to make this happen.”

The country director, Nigeria, Pathfinder International, Dr. Amina Aminu Dorayi, affirmed that Nigeria has moved the needle with vaccine and immunisation coverage 10 years after the vaccine summit but stated that there is still a lot to do to improve immunisation coverage as vaccine hesitancy has remained a key challenge. She called for proper education and information dissemination on vaccine safety. 

“We still have many children who do not have access to immunisation and COVID-19 has impacted on our vaccine immunisation system. No matter what we do at the health system level, without addressing vaccine hesitancy, our work won’t have much impact,” Dorayi stated. 

She further reinstated the need to work with civil society groups closer to the people for them to understand how important vaccines are to the health of the populace. 

A virologist and chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, appraised Nigeria’s vaccine journey over the last 10 years.

“We have won the battle on polio but the war is still on. We need to apply the same strategy and increase routine immunisation to ensure no child is left behind.” 

Tomori assured that the bid to produce vaccines locally is on course, as there is a building, plan and partnership ongoing, while the Federal Government’s infusion and collaboration will go a long way in speeding up the process.

“The approval and funds have been released, the land has been bought, the engineering plan has been approved, the environment impact assessment has also been done. If not for the impact of COVID-19, we are hoping that the building will come up before the end of this year,” Tomori assured. 

The roundtable discussion which had in attendance vaccine experts across the country, including the Federal Ministry of Health, evaluated the progress made so far and advocated for renewed commitment towards achieving the rest of the commitments before IA2030.

Prudence Eboagwu-Ijah
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