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FG releases N10bn for local production of vaccines

....expresses worry over 20% COVID-19 positive rate in one week

The Federal Government, through the ministry of finance, has released N10 billion to support local production of vaccines in Nigeria and has begun exploring options for its production in the country.

The government has also mandated all the 774 local government areas in the country to carry out a minimum of 450 tests, as government ramps up testing plans.

Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, stated this on Monday during the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 containment briefing in Abuja. Ehanire said the government was exploring options for licensed production in collaboration with recognised institutions as well as options for the production of the vaccines in the country.

“While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production in collaboration with recognised institutions. We are also exploring the option of production of the vaccines in the country.”

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With Nigeria currently expecting 100,000 doses of vaccines by the end of January, and over 40 million from COVAX, Ehanire said “apart from the COVAX facility, which is billed to cover just 20 percent of our population, the government plans to increase its chances of getting enough vaccines to meet the country’s need to cover an additional 50 percent of the population”

The minister also disclosed that Nigeria was participating in the African Union initiative called “African Vaccine Availability Task Team”, which reports directly to President Ramaphosa of South Africa, as the African Union chairman, and has secured 270 million doses of various types of vaccines.

He added that Nigeria has written to express interest in 10 million doses of the viral vector vaccine, which could be supplied as from March 2021, bearing in mind options suitable for our environment and the available infrastructure, as well as Investment in delivery.

Ehanire noted that preparation for Covid-19 vaccine requires that countries determine criteria for prioritisation, develop a robust vaccine distribution strategy and identify vaccine administration sites and teams.

“It also requires that countries develop procurement, supply chain and distribution plan for commodities and devices, as well as a sustainability plan. These we are already working on so that we are ready when the vaccines arrive” he said.

The ministry of health, he said, shall be holding a national vaccine conference, as part of preparations, to mobilise experts, role players, development partners and stakeholders to create a unified and strategic front for the provision and vaccination of Nigerians against Covid- 19.

“The conference will also provide a platform for deliberation on our covid-19 response strategy especially at this time of spike in cases.”

On reported claims by some persons in Nigeria, to have Covid-19 vaccines for sale, Ehanire advised all citizens to disregard the claims as they are “criminal.”

He said: “There are procedures for vaccine acquisition and use which include appropriate regulation and certification by NAFDAC. I advise against fake vaccines, as there is no vaccine approved for use in the country,” Ehanire said.

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