COVID-19 Vaccines: Need For Local Production

T he ravaging coronavirus pandemic, last year, led to huge human, economic and other loses in the global community prompting agitations for vaccines which made many countries and economies to invest heavily in developing candidate vaccines. As nations battle the second wave, Nigeria is in the COVAX facility with other 191 participating countries, which is the mainstay of the country's expected access to safe and effective vaccines. The COVAX facility has in the portfolio approved vaccines as Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and the OxfordAstraZeneca, with hundreds of candidates vaccines still in development. As Nigeria contends with the second wave of the pandemic, which has been on the rise lately, there are mixed reactions concerning the use of imported vaccines to stem the tide in the country. While some speak in its favour, others are opposed to it, expressing lack of confidence in the vaccines. Virologists have advised the Federal Government against the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine at the moment, saying it was unnecessary to introduce it now to Nigerians. Rather, they suggest the Federal Government should allow people to still use their herd immunity, which is a natural gift, and rather concentrate on the few people who have some medical conditions that have made their level of herd immunity very low. To them, use of imported vaccine was dangerous because we do not know the long term effects. Just recently, the executive director and chief executive officer, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said during the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja that about 82 million Nigerians would be vaccinated with the available and approved COVID-19 vaccines this year. The figure represents 40 per cent of the Nigerian population, estimated at 206 million. Shuaib added that the country was expecting 42 million doses of vaccines from the COVAX facility of the World Health Organisation (WHO). By the end of January this year, Nigeria will receive 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, he said, noting that frontline health care workers, strategic leaders, and the vulnerable, comprising the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, would be priority targets to receive the vaccine this year. On the other hand, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, after a bilateral meeting with China's Foreign Affairs Minister, Wang Yi, who was on a 2-day working visit in Abuja, that the Federal Government has opened talks with the Peoples Republic of China to have access to COVID-19 vaccines for the citizens. Although state governors are among those who would like to demonstrate on live Television to citizens that they believe the imported vaccines would work, they have urged the Federal Government to expedite actions towards ensuring local production of COVID-19 vaccine instead of completely relying on the imported ones. Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi, told State House correspondents, Friday, after meeting with the President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that it was the view of state governors that the nation needed to ramp up manufacturing of vaccines locally, and that religious leaders and celebrities be included among those that will be vaccinated in public to boost people's confidence in the vaccines. He said, "Our view is that ultimately, we really need to ramp up the manufacturing of vaccines locally. It is okay that COVAX, which 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. 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." Since there is no clarity on when the vaccines would arrive Nigeria, it is expedient for Nigerians not to let off their guards against the virus, as the vaccination does not guarantee immediate cure. Nigerians must continue to rely on the efficacy of the range of non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as the use of facemasks, avoiding crowded gatherings, constant practice of physical hygiene and social distancing, among other guidelines and protocols. Corporate organizations must intensify efforts towards curbing the spread of the second wave of the virus, by enforcing all preventive measures.

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