The Federal Government says it has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccines production to tackle COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this during the Presidential Task Force COVID-19 briefing on Monday in Abuja, noting that the fund was released by the Ministry of Finance to support the production in collaboration with recognised institutions.
“The Ministry of Finance has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production.
“While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production, in collaboration with recognised institutions.
“We are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in the country,” he said.
Ehanire urged Nigerians to ignore claims by some people in certain quarters that they had COVID-19 vaccines for sale in the country, adding that there are globally accepted steps for acquiring the medication.
He said, “I advise all citizens to disregard these claims, as they are criminal.
“There are procedures for vaccine acquisition and use, which include appropriate regulations and certification by the National Agency for Food and Drug and Administration and Control.
“I advise against fake vaccines, as there is no one approved for use in the country. “The National Primary Health Care Development Agency is the only authorised vaccine administrator in Nigeria.”
Ehanire bemoaned the spike of COVID-19 cases across the country, noting that 10,300 confirmed cases were reported from just 50,750 samples tested in one week, which translates into a 20 per cent positivity rate.
“It means one out of every five persons tested in the last one week turned out positive, compared with the previous week which recorded a positivity rate of 14 per cent.
“Nigeria’s total number of confirmed cases is 110,387 out of a total of 1,172,234 samples tested, with a cumulative positivity rate of 9.4 per cent. 1,444 cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, with sadly 77 deaths in the past week and total fatality of 1,435.
“It is instructive of the second wave that all cases recorded so far this January are more than 20 per cent of all confirmed cases in Nigeria, more than the whole of December, barely halfway through the month.
“There is no doubting the fact that we are deep into the second wave of the pandemic which requires that PTF and FMoH review our strategies to respond to the challenge.
“The Federal Ministry of Health has outlined three approaches to confront the pandemic.
“These are infection mitigation, therapeutics and vaccines,” the minister stated.
He maintained that reducing COVID-19 infection rate across the country remains the easiest and cheapest objective of the government and that implementation of critical non-pharmaceutical measures required the cooperation of the public.
Ehanire further said that the government’s main effort is to ensure social mobilisation for testing, strengthening surveillance activities for early detection, active contact tracing, isolation and treatment.
“This includes much more adherence to wearing masks, social distancing, use of sanitiser than we are seeing today.
“Of special concern are the so-called “super spreader activities” that involve congregational settings, which must be reduced, restricted or prohibited in the interest of the common good.
“With regards to therapeutics, we must strive to reduce mortality from this disease by ensuring adequate stock of supplies and strengthening our case management capacity.
“In this regard, the ministry of health is working to expand oxygen availability across the country to address shortages, which have been a challenge globally, and also to review the value of various pharmaceuticals and protocols proposed for COVID-19 treatment.
“Clinicians are also urged to work out guidelines for participating in clinical studies,” Ehanire said.
Recall that, the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, recently made a case for the local production of vaccines, noting that it is one of the ways to gain from the opportunities offered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Vice-President made the call at a virtual meeting with top government officials and a group of Nigerian scientists who have been working on some of the public health dimensions of the pandemic.
According to him, “I think that we must be talking now about local vaccine production, improving the training of laboratory scientists, and generally improving our capacity to respond in various ways.
“We must really focus on the opportunities that this period gives us.
“What I have noticed is that unless something like this happens, we are very frequently relaxed and just hope for the best.
“I think we are in a position now where we can do a lot. There is an opportunity to do more in terms of government funding.”
Also, in November 2020, the Federal Government announced plans to set up a modern vaccine production company in Nigeria to encourage licensed indigenous production of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Disclosing this during a PTF meeting in Abuja, Ehanire said the health ministry was preparing to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a first-line pharmaceutical company in Nigeria, on a Public/Private partnership to set up the company.