The National Economic Council (NEC), under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has endorsed efforts being made to produce COVID-19 vaccines locally, according to Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
Briefing State House correspondents, on Thursday, after the first virtual meeting of the council for 2021, anchored from the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Okowa said the country was also open to partnership and outsourcing arrangements with foreign producers of the vaccines.
“Nigeria and May and Baker are already in partnership for quite some time now, in trying to ensure that we are able to produce vaccines locally.
“And they are already looking very closely at that; and how to partner with either the approved vaccine producers, or to relate with those vaccines that are still in the process to see what we can do to start to produce vaccines.
“A lot of work is also being done locally; the details of which is not yet available, but we do know that Prof. Oyewale Tomori is working very closely with some of the institutions we have in the country to see at the possibility of us beginning to produce vaccines at the moment.’’
He said production of vaccines required a lot of process and funding , but expressed optimism that the partnership between May and Baker and the Nigerian government, as led by Tomori would be fruitful.
According to him, the Tomori-led partnership was working on being involved in the production of vaccines; either locally or in partnership with those that have been approved globally, like the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine whose bulk would be produced in India.
“So, there could be outsourcing of the production of some of these vaccines. And we hope that we can become part of those that will have the outsourcing to produce some of these vaccines, because there are so many of them that are still in the process of seeking approval,’’ he said.
The governor said that the country would soon receive 100, 000 doses of vaccine from Pfizer Pharmaceutical, adding that the first doses would be administered on health workers and the elderly.
He said 40 million more doses of the vaccines were being expected at the end of March, or early of April, to cover 20 per cent of the population.
Okowa said that the Minister of Finance had reported to NEC that N555 million had been disbursed to five tertiary hospitals, while N6.5billion was disbursed to Ministry of Health to develop oxygen in 38 institutions.
The governor said that the council was not contemplating another lockdown, but urged Nigerians to strictly comply with the extant COVID-19 protocols.