Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives has charged the government to speed the local production of vaccines to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases in the country.
The House also mandated its Committees on Healthcare Services and Health Institutions to the meet with the Minister of Health, the Executive Director National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the chief executive of May and Baker Nigeria Plc to brief the parliament on the needed legislative support to fast track the production of vaccines in the country.
The committees are expected to report back to the House within four weeks for further legislative actions.
This followed the adoption of a motion by Chike Okafor on the ” urgent need to speed Up local production of vaccines in Nigeria ” at Tuesday’s plenary.
Okafor, in his motion, noted that the Yaba Vaccine Production Laboratory in Lagos State, was active in the production of between 1940 and 1991 and produced large quantities of vaccines against smallpox, rabies and yellow fever used in Nigeria and neighboring countries like Cameroon, and other African countries.
However, the lawmaker noted that the Yaba Vaccine Production Laboratory was shut by the Federal Government in 1991, so as to upgrade the facility for optimal production, stating that the facility has remained shut till date.
Okafor added that there is need to produce vaccines locally to address the rCOVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases in the country.
He recalled that ” in 2017, the Federal Government signed a partnership agreement with May and Baker Nigeria PLC to float a company named Biovaccine Limited for the commencement of local vaccine production in Nigeria, however, the company is yet to commence the production of those live-saving vaccines.”
The lawmaker contended that while African countries like South Africa, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Senegal have functional laboratories for production and export of vaccines for use and export, Nigeria spends over four billion naira annually on importation of vaccines, an amount which, if vaccines are locally produced will reduce the volume of monies spent on importation, local delivery, insurance and handling charges.
Consequently, Okafor argued that it is imperative ” for Nigeria to speed up the commencement of local Vaccine production for domestic use and export especially now the World is faced with the ravaging Corona Virus (COVID-19) and other terminal diseases.”