A Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics in the Department of Biological Sciences, Redeemer’s University Nigeria, Ede, Osun State, Christian Happi, has asked the Federal Government to invest in local production of COVID-19 vaccine, saying the country will wait for a long time before getting the quantity of vaccines that will cover a large number of the population if it keeps waiting for other countries.
Happi, who also the Director, African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, said the number of doses of COVID-19 vaccine being expected in the country will not go far in meeting the needs of the population.
The researcher stated this during an interview with PUNCH HealthWise.
He said, “We shouldn’t do business as usual. I am not sure of how far we can go with the doses being expected. Truth is that the country should invest in developing its own COVID-19 vaccine .
“If we keep waiting for other countries to sell or give us, we are going to wait for a long time.
“Countries that have invested in producing their own COVID-19 vaccines will first take care of their own people before thinking about selling to other countries. You can see what is going on already.”
The Federal Government had recently released N10 billion to support COVID-19 vaccine production in the country.
Speaking at a Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing recently, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said, “The Ministry of Finance has released N10bn 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.”
The professor of Molecular Biology noted that with the right investment, Nigeria could produce its own COVID-19 vaccine within a year.
“If we can invest in vaccine production, it is possible to have our own vaccine within a year. The framework is there.
“At least, we have developed something and it’s just waiting to go into clinical trial. The right support is what is required to move forward,” Happi said.
Nigeria wants to vaccinate as much as 50 per cent of its population against the coronavirus in 2021 but is yet to land its first batch of vaccines despite several arrangement and partnerships the country has keyed in to secure the much needed jabs.
Nigeria is expected to receive an initial 16 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines through the Vaccines Global Assess Facility, by the end of February.
The country is also expecting an additional 42 million doses of the approved COVID-19 vaccines.
The health minister said the 42 million doses would be delivered to the country through the African Union, African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.
Ehanire said Nigeria subscribed to two multilateral vaccine access platforms; the first being the COVAX facility which was set-up to divide over a billion doses of vaccines across 92 low-and middle-income countries.
According to him, the second platform is the AVATT, which has acquired 300 million doses of three types of vaccines to distribute to African countries based on their population.
“We shall be offered over 42 million doses by AVATT. If all the projected vaccines are supplied, we estimate we should have covered over 45 per cent of the population”, the minister said.
The World Health Organisation says it supports Nigeria and other African countries in their bid to access COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility.
WHO says out of all the 88 million AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine doses allocated to African countries for the first phase, Nigeria has received by far the largest allocation, with 16 million doses.
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