OSINBAJO, VIROLOGISTS SEEK LOCAL PRODUCTION OF VACCINE

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Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday, made a case for the local production of vaccine as one of the ways to gain from the opportunities offered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, the Vice-President made the call at a virtual meeting he had with top government officials and a group of Nigerian scientists who have been working on some of the public health dimensions of the pandemic.

The statement was titled, ‘Osinbajo to FG public health agencies and experts: COVID-19 pandemic opportunity to improve healthcare delivery’.

Akande said the interaction which focused on Nigeria’s response and the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, featured presentations by one of Nigeria’s leading virologists, Prof. Oyewale Tomori; infectious diseases scientist, Prof. Philip Onyebujoh, and the Director, African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Redeemer’s University, Prof. Christian Happi.

On the government side at the interaction were Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire; the Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Aliyu Sani; and the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.

He quoted Osinbajo as saying, “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 really 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. In fact, there is the opportunity to do more in terms of government funding.”

According to the statement, Tomori emphasised the need for authorities across levels to leverage the opportunities created by the COVID-19 pandemic to overhaul the entirety of the country’s health system, noting that “we cannot let this pandemic go without starting the production of vaccines here in Nigeria.”

Happi was also said to have emphasised stressed the need for a closer collaboration between the public and private sectors to transform Nigeria’s health sector not only in providing the necessary infrastructure but in making possible the local manufacture of medical consumables.

On his part, Onyebujoh advocated improved coordination especially in the states in the areas of identification, isolation and clinical management of infected persons, for the country to effectively manage the current rate of transmission.

Addressing some of the concerns raised at the forum, Ehanire said the country was expecting about 10 million doses of the COVID-19 viral vector vaccine.

The statement added, “The minister added that the 10 million doses is aside the 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine being expected in the country, noting that both types of the vaccine would be received, sometime in March 2020.”

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