The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has reassured that the N10 billion earmarked by the National Assembly for the local manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines is intact in the custody of the Ministry of Finance.
Ehanire gave the assurance yesterday (September 13, 2022) in Abuja, during the ministerial bi-weekly meeting on the update of COVID-19 response and development in the country’s health sector.
Recall that the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Finance, announced the sum of N10billion for the production of vaccines in Nigeria, to fight the coronavirus.
Following the announcement of the disbursement of the sum of N10 billion to the Ministry of Health for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, the joint committee scheduled a meeting with the ministers of finance and health for clarifications on the funds.
The chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said the committee wanted to know what the funds are meant for and cautioned on the implementation of another lockdown.
“We got to see that what was released was in line with what was already there, for preparing the country for all other vaccines’ arrangements.
“So, [for] our economy, we only need to live with COVID-19. We cannot, with due respect, contaminate Nigeria with a lockdown. It will badly affect our economy,” Oloriegbe said.
The minister said that the country is in tune with the international health regulations on the importance of epidemic preparedness.
He said that the country has found partners to import the technology to produce its vaccines and the National Assembly [has] earmarked N10 billion for the production of vaccines.
“We are as prepared as we can be for disease X. Also, we are pursuing the capacity to produce vaccine biotech and visitors from the Serum Institute of India. They 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 the bio-vaccine is a revival of the former vaccine plants that the Federal Government had. The private sector was invited to join and form a special purpose vehicle – a company called Bio-Vaccine. This was conceived before COVID-19.
“Now the joint venture was stalled because of the outbreak – when there was a lockdown and nothing could move. So, there was a lot of delay by the company in getting themselves on their feet. 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. It is not that it is abandoned. We are working on it and I have spoken with one of the members of the board of management of Bio-Vaccine and we are working on getting that technology to produce routine and COVID-19 vaccines under license and importation of the technology and partnership for it,” he said.
The minister insisted that local vaccine production is a priority of the Buhari administration and is one reason countries have been engaging partners of interest in actualising the important objective.
Meanwhile, the director, disease control and immunisation, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Bassey Okposen, emphasised the importance of the COVID-19 vaccination across the country.
Okposen said that over 70 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to Nigerians. “As of September 12, 2022,” he said, “in 36 states of the Federation and the FCT, about 33,808,662 of total eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,901,683 of total eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are partially vaccinated”.
He stressed that millions of children in the country missed out on basic childhood vaccines annually.
“Getting your child vaccinated is the best way to give every child a healthy start to life and protect against preventable diseases from birth into old age,” he advised.