By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Nigeria may become a vaccine producing nation soon, a virologist has hinted.
Professor Oyewale Tomori, a Professor of Virology, gave the indication while speaking on the subject: “Vaccine Production in Nigeria – The Role of Government” at the 11th annual symposium of Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) in Lagos this month.
He highlighted the opportunities for vaccines development in the country, and said that what is needed for its sustainability are adequate funding, national commitment, national pride, accountable transparency and enabling environment.
According to him, the critical success factors for achieving the objective include stakeholder alignment, funding and grants, technology partnership, market access and regulatory certification.
“By providing this grant, FGN (Federal Government of Nigeria) and distinguished legislators have demonstrated that there can be responsive governance and a genuine care for the health and welfare of the citizens.
“Distinguished legislators, the true representatives of our people, your endorsement of the 10 billion Naira grant will attest to your genuine care for the health security of the people of Nigeria.
“For this endorsement, each of your names will be written, not in gold, but in diamond as true representatives who genuinely are for the people they represent. You will renew the confidence of Nigerians from all walks of life in a country we love so dearly,” the Professor of Virology emphasized while commenting on the importance of lifting embargo on progress.
Giving details of Nigeria’s match towards vaccines production, Tomori said that the revised business plan was approved in August 2018, while March 2019 witnessed “RFP2, for architecture, structural and internal engineering design.”
In addition, he explained that fresh letter of intent (LOI) was invited for revised request for proposal (RFP2), and that invitation for fresh LOI was carried out in October 2020, while in February 2021 Board gave approval for partners.
“The announcement of 10 billion Naira for local vaccine production has positively raised the profile of Nigeria and resulted in a scramble for partners who are expressing confidence in Nigeria,” the don observed.
He provided an outline of the benefits of developing vaccines in the nation, and stressed that the development “means we create jobs faster, save on foreign exchange, become hub of regional vaccine production, reap benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and stop being dependent on foreign countries for our health.”
Going down memory lane, the virologist enumerated the history of vaccines production in Nigeria which included year 1924 being the first biological, anti-rinder pest serum, produced to control the rinder pest outbreak.
He said: “Vom activity later expanded to include production of animal vaccines. 1975: FDVR became NVRI, a veterinary institute committed to research excellence and the production of quality vaccines of the highest standard for the livestock industry.”
The Professor of Virology recollected in bullet points that the foundation of the Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory (FVPL) in Nigeria was laid as follows: “1925 – Rochfeller Yellow Fever Laboratory, Yaba ( in Lagos); 1930 – production of smallpox vaccine in sheep. 1948 – Anti-Rabies vaccine production in sheep brain, and 1952 – Yellow Fever vaccine production.”
Tomori narrated that human vaccine production in Nigeria took off from 1940 when Nigeria’s FVPL produced the two vaccines: VF, smallpox, and the Anti-Rabies Serum.
“Facility was shut down in 1991 for upgrade,” he disclosed, stressing: “Efforts at revitalizing the FVPL was not successful.”
He pointed out that manufacturing of vaccines locally enhances better control of supplies for immunization, promotes national security, reduces dependency, promotes sustainability and donor fatigue, as well as boosts capacity to develop and manufacture vaccines that are relevant to Africa, among other advantages.
He frowned at setbacks that are detrimental to the production of vaccines in the country, such as democratic obstacles as well as “people making their self-interest to override their national interest.”
According to him, “on vaccine production in Nigeria, self-interest turns a 100 meter dash to a marathon.”
The Professor of Virologyrology expressed disappointment that the buildings where the production of vaccines were carried out in the country in the past are now dilapidated.
By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos