BusinessDay

Local vaccine production now matter of national security – Buhari

...orders Minister to submit report in May

President Muhammadu Buhari has said building capacity for in-country production of vaccines and medical supplies has become a matter of urgency and national security, flowing from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and economy of the nation.

The President therefore directed the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, to submit a progress report by the end of May 2022 on the indigenous production of vaccines in the country.

The President gave the directive while receiving the leadership of the Nigeria Integrated Biopharmaceuticals Industries Consortium (NIBI), led by Vilarugel Cuyas, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Fredlab on Wednesday in Abuja.

Stressing that his administration considers food and medicine sufficiency as national security issues, the President asked the health minister and his team to work closely with the consortium on the Federal Government support required for the actualization of the NIBI project within the next few months.

‘‘While the Ministry of Health continues to drive collaboration with investors for vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices, in a move towards self-sufficiency, I welcome the NIBI consortium’s desire to partner with the Federal Government in support of our agenda and look forward to the implementation of the NIBI project as it takes shape,’’ the President said.

Read also: Nigeria to produce COVID candidate vaccine in 2023

Recounting the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s economy and health systems and how some nations with comparative advantages in being centres of bio-pharmaceutical productions adopted a “me-first” attitude towards securing their citizens, Buhari said: ‘‘I want Nigeria to make a bold statement in this field not just for reasons mentioned earlier, but because of its knock-on effects on our economy at large.’’

The President told the audience that Nigeria has learnt key lessons from the pandemic, including that countries must look inward for sustenance in food and medical supplies.

‘‘Having witnessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our health system, our communal life and national economy, from which we are yet to fully recover, we are reminded that the wealth of a nation is dependent on the health and wellbeing of its citizens.

‘‘ At the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria was quick to respond to what seemed an existential threat, by strengthening the health system’s capacity to handle the pandemic – an initiative that continues till today in collaboration with the state government, private sector, and international partners,” he said.

According to him, key lessons of the pandemic are that nations can be brought to their knees by disease outbreaks that cripple national and international trade, and that countries must be able to look inwards for sustenance in food and medical supplies.

The president regretted that his administration has not invested enough in essential medicines, health supplies and most importantly vaccines to protect citizens. “Increasing the capacity for in-country production of vaccines and medical supplies has therefore become a matter of not just urgency, but of national security,” he stressed.

‘‘As we saw, many nations who had developed comparative advantages in being centres of bio-pharmaceutical productions adopted a “me-first” attitude towards securing their citizens. These actions placed developing nations, particularly those in Africa at severe disadvantage,” Buhari added.

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