The National Economic Council (NEC) under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has endorsed efforts being made to produce COVID-19 vaccines locally.
This was revealed on Thursday by the Governor of Delta State, Mr Ifeanyi Okowa, while briefing State House correspondents after the first virtual meeting of the council for 2021.
The event took place at the Presidential Villa, Abuja and Mr Okowa, during his chat with newsmen, added that the country was also open to partnership and outsourcing arrangements with foreign producers of the vaccines.
A major drug manufacturer, May & Baker and a federal government team headed by Prof Oyewale Tomori are spearheading the drive for either local production or partnership arrangement for the manufacturing of the vaccines outside the country.
Mr Okowa said, “Nigeria and May & Baker are already in partnership for quite some time now, in trying to ensure that we are able to produce vaccines locally.
“And they are already looking very closely at that; and how to partner with either the approved vaccine producers or to relate with those vaccines that are still in the process to see what we can do to start to produce vaccines.
“A lot of work is also being done locally; the details of which are not yet available, but we do know that Prof. Oyewale Tomori is working very closely with some of the institutions we have in the country to see at the possibility of us beginning to produce vaccines at the moment.’’
He explained that the production of vaccines required a lot of processes and funding, but expressed optimism that the partnership between May & Baker and the Nigerian government would be fruitful.
According to him, the Mr Tomori-led partnership was working on being involved in the production of vaccines; either locally or in partnership with those that have been approved globally, like the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine whose bulk would be produced in India.
He said, “So, there could be the outsourcing of the production of some of these vaccines. And we hope that we can become part of those that will have the outsourcing to produce some of these vaccines because there are so many of them that are still in the process of seeking approval.”
He added that the Minister of Finance had reported to NEC that N555 million had been disbursed to five tertiary hospitals, while N6.5 billion was disbursed to the Ministry of Health to develop oxygen in 38 institutions.
The Governor also revealed that the country would soon receive 100,000 doses of vaccine from Pfizer Pharmaceutical which was recently made known to be effective against UK variant of the virus adding that the first doses would be administered on health workers and the elderly.
He said 40 million more doses of the vaccines were being expected at the end of March, or early of April, to cover 20 per cent of the population.
The Governor said the council was not contemplating another lockdown but urged Nigerians to strictly comply with the extant COVID-19 protocols.