The Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, has said on Thursday that Nigeria and many African countries have no access to COVID-19 vaccines, despite their availability in developed countries.
Mr Mamora said this at a virtual conference on “Nigeria and the Next Pandemic: preparedness, response and vaccines” organised by The Conversation Africa.
The minister said Nigeria is focusing on vaccine development to cater for the shortage of vaccines in the country.
He said Bio-Vaccine Nigeria Limited, a joint-venture between the Nigerian government and a private firm, is working on manufacturing vaccines for the country.
“We have every need to do that in light of what is happening in the global stage. Right now, a lot of countries in Africa and even Nigeria can’t have access to vaccines.
“We can only hope to get over that or we have our own manufacturing hub in Nigeria and that is what we are working towards achieving.
“As many are aware, the world is facing inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, with Africa bearing the brunt of it. While countries in Europe and America are fully vaccinated as high as 50 percent of their population in less than one year, African countries are still around one per cent and faced with a scarcity of vaccines,” the minister said.
Mr Mamora said the pandemic has created a sense of urgency around vaccine development and manufacturing in the African region.
“In Nigeria, we have taken this opportunity to fully establish our capacity for vaccine manufacturing. We have been working closely with Bio-vaccines Nigeria Limited,” he said.
Earlier, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said Nigeria will get 3.92 million doses of Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccines in July or August.
Preparedness for future pandemic
Speaking on the preparedness of Nigeria for the next pandemic, Mr Mamora said the federal government is working hard to equip the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), through the basic healthcare provision fund.
The minister said NCDC will have access to 2.5 per cent of the 5 per cent of the funds earmarked for health emergencies.
“We were not as prepared as we would have loved to at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the resources we had were based on previous investment in health security by NCDC.
“We are seeking this opportunity, this moment of disruption, to build more sustainable and resilient systems for health security in Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Mamora said though it is difficult to prepare for a future pandemic while still in the face of one, the WHO estimate, which states that the world faces a threat of pandemic every five years, is enough reason to prepare.
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He said vaccine manufacturing is one of the key areas of preparing for future pandemics, adding that the country has leveraged on the COVID-19 to strengthen its health facilities.
Mr Mamora added that Nigeria has learnt a lot of lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and it will prepare the country for future pandemics.
Other speakers at the conference are, Christian Happi, Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics; Folashade Ogunshola, Professor of Medical Microbiology; Glenda Gray, Special Adviser, Medical Research Council; Oyewale Tomori, Professor of Virology and and others.
The conference also had in attendance representatives from the Federal Ministry of Health, health experts and scientists and other policymakers.