Three months after the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) got the World Health Organisation (WHO) certification for vaccine production, WHO has listed Nigeria and five other African countries to start producing their own mRNA vaccine.
The global health body on Friday announced the five other countries as Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia, describing the six countries as the first recipients of technology from the WHO’s global mRNA vaccine hub.
Director-general of WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus said “Today I’m delighted to announce the first six African countries that will receive technology from the hub to produce their own mRNA vaccines: Egypt, Kenya Nigeria, Senegal South Africa, and Tunisia.
“We expect clinical trials to start in the 4th quarter of this year, with approval expected in 2024.
“WHO will work with the companies and the government in each country to develop a roadmap for training and production, based on their needs and capacities.”
Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP Weekend recalled that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has said in 2020 that it is working hard to obtain International certification to enable Nigeria manufacture vaccines locally.
Few months ago, the director-general of the NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeye, announced that the country had been certified by the WHO for the production of vaccines after meeting the 868 requirements set by the global world health regulatory body.
However, medical experts have said that WHO technology will only go to the regulatory agencies, saying the organisation does not supply technology for manufacturing companies.
The fact that Nigeria has to wait for WHO to give the go ahead to start producing medicine and vaccines for its own people, shows that the government is yet to prioritise Research and Development (R&D), pharmaceutical research scientist with the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Prof. Martin’s Emeje told LEADERSHIP.
“It has shown we are lazy People. We do not need WHO to tell us to manufacture vaccines for Nigerians. No country who values the lives of its people will wait for a nod from WHO before manufacturing drugs and vaccines for them. USA, UK etc didn’t wait for WHO before they started looking for ways to protect their people, why should we wait till this time?,” Emeje said.
He disclosed that the technology that WHO said it will be providing to Nigeria to produce the vaccine may not be entirely free, adding that, even the vaccines being given to us are close to expiration date.
Nigerians are being protected not just because of the vaccine alone, the pharmaceutical scientist said, adding that, “we need to find out why we didn’t die like the western world and that requires research.”
He however called on government, pharmaceutical companies, private sector and well-meaning Nigerians to invest in R&D like the Western countries do.
“I will keep emphasising on the need for our government, private sector to prioritize research and development. We have the experts and the capacity to produce our vaccine locally, we don’t need any certification from WHO. All we need is for the government, pharmaceutical companies and rich people like Dangote in Nigeria to key into R&D,” he added.
Immediate past president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, said Nigeria was not waiting for WHO’s go ahead to start vaccine production locally.
“We are actually not waiting for WHO to tell us to start manufacturing, anytime Nigeria is ready to start manufacturing, it will start manufacturing, WHO does not tell anybody when to start manufacturing, if you have competence, the facility and the structure, you can start manufacturing.
He noted that some pharmaceutical industries were working towards setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities.
“They are working on that based on the support they received from the CBN. That is ongoing right now but how soon that will be ready I cannot say. There is a possibility and probability out there now unlike what it was before COVID.
Also, the president, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), Prof. Damen James applauded the development while reiterating that the laboratory scientists have the human capacity to produce vaccines in the country.
He urged the government not to play politics with the development, saying “We have been looking forward to seeing how the government should carry us along and appreciate the skill that our people have.
“Let them not bring politics but actually bring in the key people that matter in this aspect. It is a good development, we are happy about it but we also hope that the government will not bring politics into it.”