By Chioma Obinna
In the wake of the outcry by the World Health Organisation, WHO, among other stakeholders over vaccine inequity, the Nigerian Guild of Private Medical Laboratory Directors of Nigeria, has lamented Nigeria’s zero capacity to manufacture human vaccines.
President of the Guild, Dr Elochukwu Adibo, who was reacting to the claim by the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire that Nigeria was ready to begin the local manufacture of vaccines, said it would take the country at least three years to produce a biovaccine for exportation.
“Categorically, if you plot a gang chart of time, it can’t be less than three years but if there is a platform already existing, there could be accelerated production of Covid vaccines like all the productions from overseas,” he told Vanguard in a chat.
Noting that the last human vaccine produced in Nigeria was in 1991 before the national vaccine production facility in Lagos became moribund, Adibo said it was unacceptable and sad that apart from animal vaccines, a country of over 200 million people, cannot boast of producing a human vaccine.
Differing with claims by the minister for health, he said Nigeria needs to get the structure and infrastructural parts ready before the science of the production and how to bring the protocol to get it in a shorter time.
Adibo said Nigeria has produced many vaccines against so many livestock diseases but for human vaccines, since 1991 the country depended solely on the importation of vaccines which is not really good.
He said the billions of donor funds spent can’t be sustained.
“For sustainability, Nigeria being where it is, we need to increase capacity for vaccine production because right now our capacity is zero.
Countries that produce these vaccines in Africa are few even though some of them feel they do but Senegal, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, and the rest of them are the ones making some progress in production.
“The gap in excess of billions and hundreds of doses, the capacity of those vaccine production companies are just about not more than 100 million and a 100 million doses doesn’t mean for 100 million people.
“Right now, with COVID-19 experience among other vaccinations that was needed, Flu as simple as typhoid and hepatitis all of them need a vaccine and they are imported,” he stated.
Noting that as of last week, less than two per cent of Africans were vaccinated for COVID-19, he said: “Then you can imagine and do the mathematics or extrapolation of the gap. Being an African hub, if you put a gang chart of vaccine production and by the time you get the first bio, it can’t be less than three-four years.
“Some people can start from the building of infrastructure and putting up the work of validity of equipment and chemicals and get human resources and all of them put in a gang chart of time versus achievement of activities. It can’t be less than three years before we get the first biovacine.”
Commending the vaccine production initiative between the federal government since 2007 which was also stalled, he said the review of the MOU by the government and the fact that the team was being led by Prof. Oyewale Tomori was the right step in getting the first indigenous vaccine production and first biovacine in Nigeria.
“So there is hope. It can only be strengthened with commitment both in the private and public sector and that is why for us as medical laboratory scientists.”
Recalling that medical laboratory scientists are in the heart of vaccine production Adibo said Nigeria has human capacity but needs training and retraining.
To support government, the Guild of Medical Laboratory of Nigeria will in August, in Abuja, hold an international conference on vaccines, the key is harnessing resources between private and public sector in vaccine production in Nigeria and in-vitro diagnosis.
“We want to see how we can harness public and private partnerships in Nigeria to bring this alive. So we invite a lot of people, the Vice President, key stakeholders in private sectors, like Prof Tomori to lead discussions with different scientists. Together we will lend our voice and strength to see the initiative that is coming on board that is the Bio-vaccine and the federal government initiative is not enough, that’s just one out of millions that should be formed.
infancy to adulthood, vaccines are continually needed to protect newborns from infant diseases both communicable and non-communicable diseases to ensure that the body builds enough immunity to keep us well and safe. The issue of the need for vaccines cannot be overemphasised. Unfortunately, for our country Nigeria, things started very well before now, in the ’70s there were vaccine laboratories owned by the federal government which was producing a vaccine for use in Nigeria. But unfortunately, that particular vaccine production was seen last in 1991 and things went the way it was.”