“Nigeria is in talks with the World Bank’s private lending arm and other lenders to raise about 30 million dollars to help finance a vaccine plant.
“Bio-vaccine Nigeria Limited is chaired by Prof. Oyewale Tomori; 49 per cent of the company is owned by the Nigerian government with the balance held by May and Baker Nigeria PLC and they have plans to begin construction of a plant.
“I believe in the first quarter of next year; the plant which is supposed to be located in Ota, Ogun State, will initially, we are told, fill and finish, which I’m also told, means importing the raw materials for the vaccines and then packaging them for distribution.
“Some South African companies are already involved in doing exactly that; I believe Aspen Pharmacare and Belvac Institute operate similar facilities.
“Full manufacturing, we are told, is expected to follow in the coming months or years; I am not entirely certain, when.
“So, it is evident that the way forward is more funding for healthcare and research for innovators to develop solutions in pharmaceuticals and medical consumables.’’
The vice president said that by the discussion he had with NIPRD Director-General, Dr Obi Adigwe, he was inspired by the potential and the kind of support that the pharmaceutical industry and research agencies would require.
Osinbajo said that the Federal Government had established the Healthcare Sector Intervention Fund Facility which had disbursed N76.9 billion, about 185 million dollars, to finance the acquisition and installation of critical medical care equipment.
He said that the fund was also for the expansion of production lines in various pharmaceutical companies across the country.
According to him, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is also supporting a number of research and development initiatives in the health sector as it had disbursed a total of N233 billion in grants.
Osinbajo said that NIPRD was also making immense contributions in developing local cure for COVID-19.
“NIPRD has also developed an impressive variety of pharmaceutical products from indigenous resources and both the Niprimune and Niprimune plus both of which I have the pleasure of seeing, have been found to posses reasonable property that are able to prevent or work against COVID-19.
“Both products, which have been registered by NAFDAC, are currently undergoing various levels of clinical studies towards approval for production for emergency use.
“The NIPRD Director-General, Dr Obi Adigwe, has assured that by this time next year, the institute will launch three new products currently under development at its Nanomedicine, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Centres.
“It is this proactive approach that we must take to the slow pace of vaccine access in Africa and of course, Nigeria.
“Although, we received help from some friendly nations and the Covax alliance, less than four per cent of our eligible population would have been vaccinated by the end of this year.
“There is no question that we cannot afford not to have own vaccine production facilities.’’
He said the COVID-19 pandemic was for him, an eye opener in five different respects—the unpreparedness of most developed economies; vaccine hesitancy and the danger of conspiracy theory and false information, especially in public health crisis.
Osinbajo said that the fourth eye opener was that, in terms of global health crisis on the scale of the COVID-19, help should not be expected.
“The fifth eye opener is that despite infrastructural weaknesses, we in Nigeria have an experienced and robust public health system, peopled by some of the best personnel anywhere in the world.
“But more importantly, we have an opportunity to become one of the leading nations in healthcare,’’ he said.
Earlier, in his welcome address, Adigwe said that the conference was the first of its kind to gather multidisciplinary scholars to engage, innovate and synthesise new approaches to solving global health challenges.
The keynote speaker, Prof. Joseph Fortunak, who spoke virtually, said that COVID-19 exposed the vulnerability of pharmaceutical supply chain and urged Nigeria to take the manufacture of drugs seriously.