NEC okays local production of COVID-19 vaccines

By Eric Ikhilae

The National Economic Council (NEC) on Thursday endorsed efforts being made to produce COVID-19 vaccines locally.

It also said Nigeria was open to partnership and outsourcing arrangements with foreign producers of the vaccines for the production of the anti-COVID-19 drugs.

Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) whose members constitute the majority of NEC members, had earlier in the day distanced itself from Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello’s “ill-fated pronouncement” on Sunday that COVID-19 vaccines were meant to kill people and reduce population.

A major drug manufacturer, May & Baker and a Federal Government team headed by Prof Oyewale Tomori, are spearheading the drive for either local production or partnership arrangement for the manufacturing of the vaccines outside the country.

COVID-19 has killed over 1,478 in Nigeria out of the 2,090,731 across the globe. There are over 114,691 active COVID-19 cases in the country out the 97,616,924 worldwide.

Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, briefed State House correspondents on efforts between the Federal and state governments to contain the virus after the first NEC virtual meeting in the year.

Read Also: COVID-19 shots to cost $3 to $10 under African Union vaccine plan
Okowa said: “Nigeria and May and Baker are already in partnership for quite some time now, in trying to ensure that we are able to produce vaccines locally.

“And they are already looking very closely at that; and how to partner either the approved vaccine producers or to relate with those vaccines that are still in the process to see what we can do to start to produce vaccines.

“A lot of work is also being done locally; the details of which is not yet available, but we do know that Prof. Oyewale Tomori is working very closely with some of the institutions we have in the country to see the possibility of us beginning to produce vaccines at the moment.’’

He explained that the production of vaccines required a lot of processes and funding, but expressed optimism that the partnership between May & Baker and the Nigerian government would be fruitful.

According to him, the Tomori-led partnership is working on being involved in the production of the vaccines either locally or in partnership with those that have been approved globally, like the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

Okowa added: “There could be the outsourcing of the production of some of these vaccines. And we hope that we can become part of those that will have the outsourcing to produce some of these vaccines, because there are so many of them that are still in the process of seeking approval.

The governor said Nigeria would soon receive 100, 000 doses of vaccine from Pfizer Pharmaceutical, adding that the first doses would be administered on health workers and the elderly.

He said 40 million more doses of the vaccines were being expected at the end of March or early April, to cover 20 percent of the population.

The governor said the council was not contemplating another lockdown but urged Nigerians to strictly comply with the extant COVID-19 protocols.

The NGF had in a statement earlier on Thursday said their “decisions and actions’ concerning COVID-19 would be guided by “science and informed opinions.”

In the statement, made available to journalists after their virtual meeting, the NGF members said there was no going back as Nigeria is already one of the 12 countries in Africa that had indicated an interest in the vaccines.

A part of the statement reads: “On the ill-fated pronouncement made by a member of the forum, regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, in a national daily, the forum (NGF) totally and categorically dissociated itself from the statement.

“The forum will continue to be informed and guided by science and will ensure that every decision it takes retain public and professional trust and is not compromised by conflicts of interest.”

The NGF Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, according to the communique briefed members about a meeting with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the chair of the Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GOVI) on plans for the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Fayemi told the meeting that there was an arrangement for the World Health Organisation (WHO) “to facilitate pooled procurement and the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across developing countries. Nigeria is among 12 countries in Africa that have indicated readiness of the 92 qualified countries for the facility and will by end of February 2021 receive its first shipment of vaccines.”

He disclosed that the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the agency likely to coordinate the deployment of the vaccines in the country, “has indicated that vaccines will be administered in four phases, based on vaccine type and availability, initially for frontline health workers, then the aged (55yrs and above), persons with underlying medical conditions and other target groups.”

Fayemi added that the meeting was briefed by ” medical experts, including Prof. Tomori, a leading virologist and former vice-chancellor of Redeemer’s University, Nigeria; Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of NPHCDA); Dr. Pamela Ajayi, founder/managing director, Synlab Nigeria (formerly PathCare), President Healthcare Federation of Nigeria and Dr. Egbe Dawodu, founding partner of the Anadach Group on the country’s preparedness for the procurement and administration of the COVID vaccines and the level of collaboration required from all stakeholders, including the federal and state governments as well as the private sector.

The governor added: “Following the presentations, the forum set up a team of experts led by Prof. Tomori to advise state governors on the procurement and administration of Coronavirus vaccines in the country. “

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