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Scientists seek more funding to develop vaccines


[FILE PHOTO] Professor Babatunde Lawal Salako, Director General of the Nigerian Institute Of Medical Research, NIMR.

Scientists have urged government to focus on funding research for healthcare service delivery to curb epidemics.

The scientists, who converged yesterday at the fifth international scientific conference of Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in Lagos, said that epidemic-prone disease conditions in the country appear to pose severe challenges because of the apparently high fatality rate.

Some of the diseases include Lassa fever, cholera, meningitis and Ebola.

According to them, funding research for local production of vaccines is necessary to contain epidemics, as the country has proved incapable of handling emergencies.

Speaking at the conference, with the theme ‘Achieving Universal Health Coverage: The Role of Research’, the director-general of NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Salako, stressed that “the nation needs to position its research armamentarium to curb epidemics,” especially Lassa fever, which appears to now persist all year round.

“Talking about vaccines that have been produced already, like the meningitis vaccine, the measles, cholera, yellow fever and others, scientists have continued to work and they are still working on vaccine development. For the developed vaccines, government should provide funding, significant enough to buy the number of vaccines that will provide near full coverage in Nigeria,” he said.

Salako, however, noted that the research institute had taken the bull by the horns by constituting a research team that had already started research into some aspects of Lassa fever and developed an arbovirus laboratory to assist in surveillance and disease detection.

Chairman of the conference, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, who is the vice chancellor of University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), lamented the inability of Nigeria to achieve the desired Universal Health Coverage.

Unlike Rwanda whose health insurance covers about 90 per cent of the citizen, less than five per cent of Nigerians have access to comprehensive healthcare through pre-paid health insurance structure.

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