Nigeria: Minister announces country’s potential to become a hub for vaccine production, distribution in Africa

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate, has announced that Nigeria has the potential to become a hub for local vaccine production and distribution in Africa.

Pate made this known in Abuja while addressing newsmen on the Renewed Hope for Nigeria’s Health and Social Welfare.

The minister cited Nigeria’s large population, skilled workforce, and existing pharmaceutical industry as factors that could support the development of a robust vaccine manufacturing sector in the country.

“On Local vaccine manufacturing, as you are all aware until I came back as a minister I was going to work with GAVI , an international organisation created in 2000 to improve access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries. And GAVI also shapes vaccine markets.

“What is clear is that market shaping is a key Instrument. Nigeria has over 200 million people and that’s a large market. We intend to pull that demand and hopefully use that to catalysed local manufacturing,” he said.

He also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of local vaccine production and the need for African countries to be self-sufficient in this area.

“If we do not produce more than 30 per cent of our pharmaceutical generics, let’s think of biological, like vaccines, that will take a little bit more time.

“There are already programmes that have been established for the last 15 to 16 years and there have not yet produced a dose of vaccine here.,” he lamented.

However, he acknowledged that there were challenges to be overcome, such as lack of investment and infrastructure, regulatory barriers, and limited access to technology and expertise.

“Vaccine production is not something we will say we will do in two or three months .

“But, what we can assure Nigerians is that very soon, they will hear what we are doing in this arena so that over time Nigeria can graduate from dependency from some medical commodities if not all medical commodities,” he assured.

He called for increased collaboration between governments, the private sector, and international partners to support the growth of local vaccine manufacturing in Nigeria and across Africa.

Almost all countries demand some others countries too, so I can not say that we will produce 100 per cent but what I am saying is that we will produce some of what we can, and we can also get from some other countries,” he said.

Speaking on demand creation for vaccines, the minister said that the country would leverage its polio strategy.

“ With Polio and routine immunisation in the country, we activated the Northern traditional rulers committee and they expanded the space to religious leaders, households and families.

“No parents will skip the opportunity to protect their child if they understand the value of vaccination. They will only refuse if they do not know., or the vaccine is not available if the health worker is rude or if the cold chain is not working.

He said that the ministry intends to expand the Northern Traditional Rulers Committee on Primary Health Care to make it more national and engage all traditional rulers across the country.

“We have traditional rulers across the country. They have moral authority and for them, we will be very honest and respect the intent to serve their population and together with them we can continue to expand access to vaccine demand.

Former president Muhammadu Buhari while speaking at the first World Bio Summit, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea, spoke on Nigeria’s quest to revive local vaccine production.

Buhari recounted that the government had ratified a joint venture agreement with a leading Nigerian Pharma Company for a Public Private Enterprise.

He said Nigeria has also hosted representatives of frontline Research and Development organisations to collaborate on clinical trials.

Buhari said; ‘‘The aim is to support manufacturers in LMIC to produce their vaccines, ensuring that they have all the necessary operating procedures and technical know-how to produce mRNA vaccines at scale while observing the WHO manufacturing practices.’’

He said Nigeria is already taking steps to provide the needed infrastructure and requisite funding for the implementation of the vaccine initiative.

‘‘In this regard, a private pharmaceutical company to facilitate pharmaceutical production of the mRNA vaccines has been identified to pilot this project,” he had said.