Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has disclosed that Nigeria is in talks with the World Bank’s private lending arm and other lenders to raise about $30 million to help finance a vaccine plant, Biovaccines Nigeria Ltd.
He however added that Nigeria must take its own destiny in its hands to build local capacities that will ensure healthcare access to the people, and take advantage of the opportunity to become a leading nation in healthcare.
Osinbajo, who expressed belief that Nigeria is “well on the way,” to getting the job done, spoke yesterday in Abuja at the International Conference on Health Access Beyond COVID-19.
He disclosed that “Nigeria is in talks with the World Bank’s private lending arm and other lenders to raise about $30 million to help finance a vaccine plant, Biovaccines Nigeria Ltd. Chaired by Prof. Oyewale Tomori; 49% of the company is owned by the Nigerian government, with the balance held by May & Baker Nigeria Plc. There are plans to begin construction of the plant in the first quarter of next year.”
In recognition of the work of Nigerian scientists by international bodies, Osinbajo added that, “Professor Happi and his team have also produced a groundbreaking rapid test, certified by the Food and Drug Administration, FDA of the US government. It costs around $3, much less than Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. In addition, the test does not require highly equipped laboratories that tend to be too expensive. But more remarkably they are developing a Nigerian anti-Covid vaccine.”
The vice president highlighted the country’s strengths in the areas of healthcare while emphasising major steps the country needs to take in order to improve its health system.
In a statement by his media aide, Laolu Akande, the vice president said one of the eye openers from the COVID-19 pandemic “is that despite infrastructural weaknesses we have an experienced and robust public health system, peopled by some of the best personnel in the world, but more importantly (is) the huge opportunities for becoming a leading nation in healthcare.”
Buttressing his point on building local capacity, the VP noted that the pandemic revealed further that “Every nation is on her own in a global pandemic, and how vaccine-rich nations at some point even banned exports in order to meet local needs, it is clear that we must take our destiny in our own hands. And there is great potential.”
He continued: “Our administration established the Healthcare Sector Intervention Fund Facility which has disbursed N76.98 billion to finance the acquisition and installation of critical medical equipment as well as the expansion of production lines in various pharmaceutical companies across the country.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria is also supporting a number of research and development initiatives in the health sector. In all, a total of N233 billion in grants has been disbursed.”
Osinbajo declared that “the healthcare system of our dreams is ahead of us, we know what we want and what is possible. We have the men and women with the required expertise; what we need is more diligent and focused management.
“Only recently the President established the Healthcare Reform committee which I have the privilege of chairing. That may well be at least one of the vehicles for ensuring that we are able to get some of our dreams come true.”
Establishing the health sector reform committee is one of the ways the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration is making concerted efforts towards transforming the country’s health sector.
According to the VP, other ongoing measures include funding for healthcare research and developing solutions in pharmaceuticals and medical consumables; and the health sector component of the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP).
“It is evident that the way forward is more funding for health care research and for innovators to develop solutions in pharmaceuticals and medical consumables, ‘’ the VP disclosed.
“In our Economic Sustainability Plan, designed to mitigate and take advantage of the consequences of the pandemic. One of the cross-cutting issues identified for action was the development of Nigeria’s capacity to become Africa’s hub for the manufacture of generic drugs.”
Osinbajo further emphasised the government’s commitment in supporting pharmaceutical and research agencies to develop and manufacture vaccines locally, and so enhance Nigeria’s domestic pharmaceutical capacity.
The VP also noted the work of the Africa Centre of Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology (ACENTDFB) led by Professor Y.K Ibrahim, which he said has been performing mass testing.
“In collaboration with the Kaduna State Government and its University Teaching Hospital, they established a facility where COVID-19 samples are analysed. The facility is part of the Nigeria CDC national testing centers,” he added.
The conference themed “Health Access and Social-Economic Development Beyond COVID-19: The First Multisectoral Approach to Solution Finding” is a two-day event that has several Nigerian scientists and Vice Chancellors in attendance. Emeritus Professor of Virology, Prof. Oyewale Tomori was also present.
Other speakers at the ceremony where the VP declared the conference opened included the Director-General of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, NIPRD, Dr. Obi Adigwe; NAFDAC Director- General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye and the keynote speaker, Prof. Joseph Fortunak of the Howard University, who titled his lecture: Assuring Health Access and Socio-economic Development Beyond COVID-19