Experts deplore inability of government to produce vaccines locally
• Nigeria Depends 100 Per Cent On Imported Vaccines, 75 Per Cent On Donor Funds
• Blame It On Greed, Corruption And Misplacement Of Priorities
• Canvass Road Map To Resuscitation Of FVPL, Yaba, NVRI Vom
Stakeholders in the healthcare industry are worried that more than 30 years after batches of vaccines were rolled out of the Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory (FVPL) Yaba, Lagos, to contain the 1986 yellow fever outbreak, the country’s capacity to continue production of vaccines locally has grounded at zero level. They revealed that poor funding, dependence on donor funds and corruption has crippled the production of vaccines in the country.
They feel scandalized that the Federal Government was unable to provide required vaccines for the recent outbreak of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis (CSM) serotype C that has killed over 839 persons and affected over 9,646 in 43 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in 23 States of the country.
They said scarcity of the needed vaccines have further exposed Nigeria’s failings, adding that at the cost of $50 (N18, 000) per dose, Nigeria needs about N396b to vaccinate 22 million people aged two years and 29 years with the required CSM serotype C vaccines. But the country does not have the resources or back up from local production. Nigeria even borrows to vaccinate its citizens.
They urged the Federal Government to revive the Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory (FVPL), Yaba, Lagos, which is now moribund, and provide needed funds for the National Veterinary Research Institute Vom (NVRIV), Plateau State, to meet the country’s vaccine needs.
The stakeholders who spoke exclusively to The Guardian include: a virologist and former President of the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) and Vice Chancellor Redeemers University, Prof. Oyewale Tomori; Executive Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN), Dr. Obi Adigwe; President Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Mike Ogirima; National President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists Nigeria (AMLSN), Toyosi Y Raheem; a consultant public health physician/epidemiologist and former Chief Medical Director of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba, Prof. Akin Osibogun; a Fellow and immediate past President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN),Olumide Akintayo; and a Fellow and President of PSN, Ahmed I. Yakasai.
To address the situation, the stakeholders called for a renewed roadmap to the local development of required vaccines to address epidemics.Tomori told The Guardian: “When we were a positively different nation, we produced vaccines not only for human use, but also for protecting our animals from diseases. At the Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory in Yaba, up until 1986 or a littler later, we produced yellow fever vaccine, small pox vaccine and rabies vaccines for human use. In Vom, we produced vaccines to protect our animals against poultry, sheep and cattle diseases. We produced viral vaccines, as well as bacterial vaccines.
“While Vom is still producing animal vaccines, Yaba died a long time ago and attempts to resuscitate it have met with woeful failure because of greed, incompetence and disdain for excellence. For those in charge, importing vaccines is one of the numerous conduit pipes for looting our natural resources and money laundering.”
Raheem said some of the reasons for inability produce vaccines locally are: gross mismanagement and corruption in all sectors; inappropriate leadership due to appointment of round pegs in square holes and relegation to the background of relevant stakeholders such as medical laboratory scientists; lack of teamwork and collaborations among health professionals and relevant health researchers, leading to every one working in a ‘silos’; and lack of commitment to Nigerian Project.
Yakasai said research and development of new drugs including vaccines takes more than ten years to complete because it is capital intensive; funding of research is inadequate or even lacking; while lack of constant electricity makes it difficult to produce.
Adigwe said: “Local vaccines production to address local diseases is the ultimate aim of any nation with robust strategies to address healthcare challenges. Unfortunately, despite the great potential of the Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, relevant policies and partnerships have either not been properly articulated or implemented to stimulate local vaccines production.
“Currently, Nigeria has over a third of all medicines manufacturing plants on the continent. We also have the highest number of relevant international quality certifications and awards in this part of the world. These are significant resources that can be leveraged within the right policy framework to expedite local vaccines production, not just for the nation, but also for the continent.”
He said if government, PMGMAN and other key stakeholders prioritize local manufacture of vaccines for prevalent conditions in this setting, widespread production could be achieved in a few years.
Akintayo said the environment has to be made conducive to local production of medicines and vaccines. “For as long as we do not reform these deficiencies, sensible investors might continue to avoid local production of medicines and vaccines,” he said.
On his part, Osibogun said: “… it is possible for us to rejig or restart our vaccine production capability but it requires appropriate funding for equipment and technology acquisition, including human capital development because most of the staff trained in the 90’s must have retired or must have lost some of their skills due to non-practice.”
The experts recommend Sustainable Immunization financing (SIF) as key to securing immunization services and good health for the over seven million children that are born yearly in Nigeria.
They are worried that the loss of Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) support has placed Nigeria’s immunization at a “critical stage where urgent action is needed to ensure sustainable financing for vaccines, devices, and cold chain infrastructure
They, however, advise that as donor partners warm up to cut off by 2022, Nigeria must look at ways of concretising local vaccine production, which was the country’s mainstay during the yellow fever outbreak in the 80’s.
They expressed hope that if Nigeria succeeds in her quest for local vaccine production, chances are that employment will be created, neighbouring African countries will now have to buy vaccines from Nigeria and above, all there will be vaccine security for citizens.