Nigeria is speeding up efforts at coming out with a locally manufactured vaccine to tackle the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic in the country.
This was disclosed to State House Correspondents on Friday by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The governor, who said he visited the President for a routine meeting on behalf of the NGF, to discuss issues surrounding security, the economy, COVID-19 vaccine management and the general outlook for 2021, said he discussed the issue of vaccine exhaustively with the President.
According to him, he agreed with President Buhari that beyond shopping for and acquiring vaccines from various sources for Nigerians, the ultimate target is ramping up the local manufacturing of the vaccine, adding that there is already a partnership which a manufacturer to that effect.
“The federal government is already part of the WHO-GAVI Alliance-COVAX partnership and from what we understand from the PTF, vaccines will come from that alliance. Some of it from Pfizer in the first instance and then maybe from other various producers of the vaccines later. But there is no clarity as yet as to when these vaccines will arrive Nigeria.
“So, one of the issues raised with Mr. President is the need to accelerate the delivery of vaccines to the country, so that it will be available to our people. Those of us at the receiving end in the states, know that this is an issue we also need to ramp up our own preparedness, in terms of getting our states ready for vaccines storage particularly, the freezers and cold chains that will be required for that process.
“We need to get ourselves ready at the state level. The federal government can procure but we will receive and administer in our various states and there is a lot of work to be done in that respect.
“Of course, procurement of vaccines we also discussed. Our view is that ultimately, we really need to ramp up manufacturing of vaccines locally. It’s okay that COVAX that Nigeria is part of is going to be delivering some vaccines to us. As we understand, the first 100,000 and then 43 million and ultimately 165 million doses.
“But, there is nothing as good as having the ability to manufacture our own vaccines locally and we understand that there is a partnership with May & Baker, which is important for the federal government to really accelerate, so that we can produce the vaccines here in Nigeria and not be dependent on what is coming from other parts”, he said.
For the Nigeria Governors ‘Forum, Dr Fayemi said the priority at the level of the states remained public health and risks communication among the people.
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He, however, commended the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for arranging to convey the message of safety of the vaccine to the general population by publicly commencing vaccination process with President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).
“For us as governors, the number one priority in vaccine management relates to public health and risk communication. I commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for at least, wanting to use Mr. President and the Vice President as their publicity vehicles for reassuring those who may have their doubts about vaccines use that this is no threats to them.
“You know there are cultural and religious concerns in various parts and we are at the state level, we are reviewing that with all of our colleagues. The good thing is, Mr. President has agreed with me that he would convey to the PTF the necessity of using other influencers, maybe the Chief Imams, the Bishops, top musicians, our sports personalities because, the more of such people are seen taking the vaccines the more the likelihood of resistance will break down in our various localities. So, we discussed that,” he said.
Responding to a question on whether governors would follow the President and Vice President’s example of publicly receiving the vaccine, the governor affirmed to the positive.
“Absolutely. We too will like to demonstrate to our citizens that we believe that vaccines would work. Don’t forget, we have a lot of experience on this. Governors forum managed the polio vaccines administration in the country and we have garnered a lot of experience.
“We have worked with the Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Federal Ministry of Health and will be happy to work with NCDC, PTF, the primary healthcare development agency on this as well. So, we would take a lead as well in our various states,” he said.
Asked if states would contribute money to purchase the vaccines, Dr Fayemi said “the details of the financial management of course is something that would be of interest to all the states. But we also know that there are a range of approaches to take, the health approach is there. Because, for us at the Governors Forum is not just a health issues, it is also a security issue and it is an economic issue too. We would work in partnership, we are involved with PTF, we have a representation at the PTF and we will work with them generally on them.”
Speaking on his discussions with the President on security, he said “what Mr. President told me on security. But, he said clearly that help is on the way. Mr. President is very determined that this year will see a rapid reduction in the free access that bandits, kidnappers, criminals have had in the country.
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