PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire to submit a progress report on the indigenous production of COVID-19 vaccines in the country by the end of May.
The president gave the directive, yesterday, while receiving the leadership of Nigeria Integrated Biopharmaceuticals Industries Consortium (NIBI), led by the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Fredlab, Mr. Vilarugel Cuyas, in State House, Abuja.
Buhari noted that as part of the fallout and lessons learned from the crises, under his directive, the Minister of Health has been conducting local and international high-level consultations to seek access to the know-how and finance to revive domestic manufacturing of vaccines and would be expected to give progress report by next month.
Explaining that the consultations had become more important as Nigeria prepares to fully transition from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) support for the supply of vaccines by 2028, the president commended the NIBI consortium made up of European biotechnology companies like Merck, Unizima, Rommelag, and Fredlab, who are collaborating with the Nigerian start-up PIA BioPharma to establish a world-class Bio-Pharma Industrial Complex for the manufacture of vaccines and essential therapeutics in Nigeria.
He, also, that this administration considers food and medicine sufficiency as national security issues, Buhari charged the Health Minister and his team to work closely with the consortium on the federal government support required for the actualisation of the NIBI project within the next few months.
According to him, Nigeria has learnt key lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, including that countries must look inward for sustenance in food and medical supplies.
“While the Ministry of Health continues to drive collaboration with investors for vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices, in a move towards self-sufficiency, I welcome the NIBI consortium’s desire to partner with the federal government in support of our agenda and look forward to the implementation of the NIBI project as it takes shape.
I want Nigeria to make a bold statement in this field not just for reasons mentioned earlier, but because of its knock-on effects on our economy at large. Having witnessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our health system, our communal life and national economy, from which we are yet to fully recover, we are reminded that the wealth of a nation is dependent on the health and wellbeing of its citizens.
At the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria was quick to respond to what seemed an existential threat, by strengthening the health system’s capacity to handle the pandemic – an initiative that continues till today in collaboration with the state government, private sector, and international partners.
Key lessons of the pandemic are that nations can be brought to their knees by disease outbreaks that cripple national and international trade, and that countries must be able to look inwards for sustenance in food and medical supplies. The benefit of this administration’s early investment in agriculture came to light during this global turbulence,” he said.