By SOLA OGUNDIPE
AS part of the commitment towards ensuring constant availability of routine vaccines in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the local production of vaccines with the take-off of Biovaccines Nigeria Limited, a joint venture company between Federal government and May & Baker Nigeria Plc.
The President is expected to actualise the goal of meeting and surpassing the nation’s local vaccine production capacity through the commissioning of a world-class vaccine plant at which production of Yellow Fever vaccine is expected to commence within 18 months.
Good Health Weekly gathered that this development is hinged on the take-off of Biovaccines Nigeria Limited – the joint venture company that was initially established in 2007 through a Joint Venture Agreement, JVA, between Federal government and May & Baker Nigeria Plc.
In a chat, the MD/CEO, May & Baker Nigeria Pic, Pharm. Nnamdi Okafor said the JVA is a special purpose vehicle to bridge supply gaps for vaccines for routine immunisations in Nigeria such as BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guerin), HBV I,II,III (hepatitis B), DTP I,II,!II ( Diphtheria, tetanus and pertusis), OPV I,II,tII (Oral Polio Vaccine), measles and Yellow Fever.
Speaking about the joint venture, Okafor stated: “Our job is to revive that entity using our knowledge, expertise and resources to produce and distribute vaccines in Nigeria once again and consequently end the era of 100 per cent dependence on foreign vaccine producers to immunise our citizens against vaccine preventable diseases that ravage our society,” Okafor stressed.
Already, according to him, the required technical expertise has been acquired and the take-off of the company will be concluded with the appointment of new directors by the partners.
“Our major priority now is to commence local vaccines production as soon as possible. The Biovaccines business plan is being reviewed and will be presented to the Board as soon the latter is constituted. We plan to commence construction of a new vaccine plant at the new site in Ota, Ogun State with a view to starting production of Yellow Fever vaccines within 18 months.”
Among benefits of the plant are guaranteed availability of quality, safe and affordable vaccine in the country, employment for hundreds of Nigerians and opportunity to turn a moribund federal cost centre into a profitable investment generating revenue.
According to Okafor: “By going into local vaccine production Nigeria will be putting the health security of her citizens in Nigerian hands. Immuniszation is a national health security issue. No country can afford to leave the health security of her citizens in the hands of foreign organisations.
“The venture would also save Nigeria substantial savings in foreign exchange and logistics costs of vaccine importation. Currently, the Federal Government spends over N6 billion to import vaccines every year, excluding what is imported by states and local governments.
Local vaccine production, Okafor pointed out, will ensure Nigeria’s participation in an industry that is at the cutting edge of science by helping to transfer technology to Nigeria and build capacity for primary healthcare delivery.”