The Federal Government has announced plans to set up a modern vaccine production company in Nigeria to encourage licensed indigenous production of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire disclosed this at the PTF briefing in Abuja.
Ehanire said that the ministry was preparing to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a first-line pharmaceutical company in Nigeria, on a Public/Private partnership to set up the company.
He also said the government was working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure Nigeria’s access to the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it became available.
The minister expressed concern over the decline in the testing rate in several states of the federation, as over 2.8 million cases were reported globally in the last one week.
According to him, records show that only Lagos and the FCT have met the testing target of at least one per cent of the population.
”Plateau, Rivers and Gombe have reached over 50 per cent of their one per cent of their target, while 25 states are yet to reach 25 per cent of their population.
“The evolving global situation of COVID-19 gives us much reason for concern with half of the cases in Europe.
“The UK, France, Germany, Spain and others in Europe have resorted to lockdown and other measures, to control the pandemic.
“With the high volume of air traffic between Nigeria and Europe, we are examining the associated risk factors for Nigeria.
“Our concern is heightened by several emerging factors that challenge whatever gains we may have made in recent months.
“The inevitable need to reopen air travel, to stimulate economic activities, the imminent reopening of schools and Youth Service, again necessary for the restoration of social order, but which global experience links with spikes in covid infection rates in most countries,” the minister said.
He added that the effect of recent social agitation and unrest, with attendant disruption of services and widespread breach of all infection prevention protocols, the growing lackadaisical attitude to COVID-19 and disregard for safety and simple infection prevention and control measures was also a source of concern.
Ehanire also noted that contact tracing and case finding have declined in states with a consequent reduction in the number of persons tested.
“I, therefore, renew my call on states and stakeholders to step up testing capacity, to help identify positive cases for isolation or treatment and protect the rest of the population, which is the duty of government.
“I wish to particularly emphasize the need to protect the elderly and vulnerable, who are the most affected in fatalities,” he said.
The minister disclosed that the Ministry of Health would next week launch an advocacy campaign in which a representative from the Minister would visit hotspot States that required encouragement.
Ehanire added that the representatives would discuss their specific needs and challenges and find ways of stepping up sample collection for testing.
“I have also directed the Department of Hospital Services to work with NCDC to design criteria and a strategy for sentinel surveillance with sample collection at Out-Patient Units of Federal Health Institutions and their outreaches, to augment the work of State authorities.
“This should improve the test volume considerably”, he said.
Following the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in other countries especially Europe, the Minister urged Nigerians to avoid non-essential travels, especially to high burden countries.
He, however, disclosed that 18 travellers out of over 78,000 arrivals, were found to be covid positive at the second testing in Nigeria.
The minister further informed that an appraisal of Nigeria’s position in the global COVID-19 space has been prepared by the Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19 and would be discussed at PTF, before releasing to the public.