‘FG’s $30m vaccine plant loan would help transform Nigeria’s health system’

'FG's $30m vaccine plant loan would help transform Nigeria's health system'

Angela Onwuzoo<

A Former President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Olumide Akintayo, says the plan by the Federal Government to obtain a $30m loan from the World Bank to build a vaccine plant in Nigeria will give the nation’s health system a new lease of life.

Akintayo states that if the Federal Government makes it possible for the country to commence the production of local vaccines and also adopts the right strategy in the use of the vaccines, routine immunisation will receive a major boost. 

The pharmacist urged Nigerians to encourage and support the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) in making it a reality.

The former PSN leader disclosed this during an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, stressing that the President should be commended in going the extra mile to talk about funding which he noted had been a major drawback to the commencement of local vaccine production in the country.

Recall that on Saturday, the President had in Jos during the graduation of Senior Executive Course 43 participants of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, disclosed that his regime was in talks with the World Bank to obtain $30m to build a vaccine plant in Nigeria.

Represented by Vice-President. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari had said he hoped that the vaccine plant to be built in collaboration with May & Baker Nigeria Plc would commence next year.

The President had said, “Nigeria is in talks with the World Bank’s private lending arm and other lenders to raise about $30m to help finance a vaccine plant – Biovaccines Nigeria Ltd, (with 49 per cent of the company owned by the Nigerian and the balance held by May & Baker Nigeria Plc), plans to begin construction of the plant in the first quarter of next year.

“The plant will initially ‘fill and finish,’ which means importing the raw materials for the vaccines and then packaging them for distribution. Full manufacturing is expected to follow.”

Reacting to the loan, Akintayo told our correspondent that health is wealth and therefore, the should be encouraged whenever it embarked on projects that would boost the health of Nigerians.

He said, “I want to work by principles and if we work by principles, we need to salute the courage of President Buhari to take the bull by the horns, finally.

“It is not just to make promises about local vaccine production but by going the extra mile to talk about funding which has been the major drawback that has limited the actualisation of the project.

“If the says $30m will be available, then, we can start from somewhere. 

“When the comes up with far-reaching reforms in our healthcare, the health system which is currently rated 187 out of 191 systems will receive a new lease of life. 

“We need to encourage the to make it happen because it is ultimately in the best interest of consumers of health in the country.” 

According to him, local vaccine production used to be a reality at the Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory in Yaba, Lagos before the facility experienced decay and total impossibility at some point.

“Vaccines for routine immunisation will be produced. I think Nigerians should support this. 

“I will personally encourage the to walk the talk because we have seen many instances in the past where promises made were not fulfilled.

“Let us hope that can actualise this because it will certainly do a lot in moving Nigeria’s health system up the ladder.

“If the makes it possible for us to have local vaccine production and we adopt the right strategy in the use of the vaccines, we will be promoting routine immunisation and not national immunisation days,” he noted.

The pharmacist added, “If you take a loan for developmental projects, it will have far-reaching effects. 

“It will create jobs and increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product because it is different from loan for payment of salaries.”

Recall that the Federal Government first mooted the idea of local production of vaccines about three years ago when it announced plans to reactivate the defunct Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory in Yaba, Lagos.

Commissioned in 1940, before it was shut down by the Federal Government in 1991, the Yaba vaccine centre was producing enough vaccines for yellow fever, smallpox, rabies, amongst others, for most of the West-African countries and other parts of the continent.

In line with this, a joint venture partnership with May and Baker Plc., known as the Biovaccine Nigeria Limited, was floated to commence local production of vaccines at the moribund Yaba facility.

Under the agreement, the Federal Government owns 49 per cent shareholding, while May & Baker owns 51 per cent.

Between 2017 and 2021, BNVL was expected to provide the technology to build and develop local capacity for research and development and local manufacturing of basic vaccines required by the country to improve immunisation routines and reduce dependency on international donors.

Unfortunately, nothing has happened after the announcement of plans and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to kick-start local vaccines production through this joint venture.



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