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PSN, Others back Federal Government on Vaccine Production

Stakeholders in the health sector have applauded the Federal Government’s agreement with and a pharmaceutical giant, May and Baker (M&B)on vaccine production.

To Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) President, Alhaji Ahmed Yakasai, the arrangement will ensure the ready avalability of vaccines, which are one the most effective ways of preventing infectious diseases.

He said:“That struggle has been on since 2004. The joint venture agreement as declared by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole shortly after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting last Wednesday, would involve counterparts funding in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model between the government and M and B.

“We want to note that the Federal Government deserves commendation for acceding to our calls to look inward in solving the hydra headed problems of vaccines and medicines shortage in Nigeria. This would go a long way in guaranteeing availability of vaccines for use in routine immunisations and vaccines for use during national emergency as observed recently during outbreak of meningitis.

“May and Baker as one of the few Nigerian Pharma companies with the World Health Organisation (WHO) pre-qualification GMP certification, will surely be able to enhance its capacity utilisation and explore opportunities in exportation of vaccines to global markets,” said Yakasai.

He called on the firm to take full advantage of the opportunity to fulfill its vision of “improving the quality of life, throughout and for all lives”.

“If you go to Yaba, the production laboratory there is dead. A lot of money will be spent, more than the $2.5 billion signed will supply only 20 per cent of the vaccination needed in the country, but with time it will expand to satisfy local needs and West Africa region, and then the globe,”he said.

Yakasai continued: “Parents want to do everything possible to ensure that their children are healthy and protected from preventable diseases. Vaccination is the best way to do that. Vaccination protects children from serious illness and complications of vaccine-preventable diseases which can include amputation of an arm or leg, paralysis of limbs, hearing loss, convulsions, brain damage, and death.

“Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, mumps and whooping cough are still a threat globally. Aside from the fact that vaccines such as yellow fever vaccine will be readily accessible same will also be affordable. I don’t want to say vaccine production is like a cartel, but that Nigeria will be a self sustaining country in the areas of vaccine provision is gladdening.”

Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) President Dr Mike Ogirima believes that outbreaks of preventable diseases occur when many parents decide not to vaccinate their children. “Vaccination is safe and effective. All vaccines undergo long and careful review by scientists, doctors, and the federal government to make sure they are safe. Vaccine production had been on in the country, but got stopped. We are happy it is now picking up. It is all a win-win situation,”he said.

According to him, Nigeria has been producing vaccines at the vaccines production laboratory in Yaba and was exporting to other countries until the place was shut down several years back for rehabilitation, which never took place.

“May and Baker entered into a joint venture with the Federal Government to take over the facilities of the Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory (FVPL) in Yaba for the purpose of resuming vaccine production, which had stopped due to the inability of the FVPL to cope with operational challenges.

“The project was, however, delayed due to the non-ratification of the agreement by successive governments. Now under a new partnership arrangement with 49:51 equity participation in favour of May and Baker, things are set to take shape under the auspices of the company jointly set up- Biovaccines Nigeria Limited.

“The country will be better for it. Now under a new partnership arrangement with 49:51 equity participation in favour of May and Baker,things are set to take shape under the auspices of the company jointly set up – Biovaccines Nigeria Limited,” Dr Ogirima said.

Former Lagos PSN Chairman Olumide Akintayo was happy that vaccines would be readily available in the country “to address these diseases – diphteria, haemophilus inflenzae tybe b, (Hib disease – a major cause of bacterial meningitis), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Human Papillomavisus (HPV – a major cause of cervical and other cancers), Influenza, measles, meningococcal, Mumps, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Pneumococcal (causes bacterial meningitis and blood infections), Polio, Rotavirus, Rubella, (German Measles), Tetanus (Lockjaw), and Varicella (Chickenpox). It will also create employment.

The country will no longer be at the mercy of global R and D vaccine manufacturers as experienced during the Ebola period, because R and D costs millions of dollars and no manufacturer will want to just give out its product just like that without recouping its investment.

“As pharmacists we are happy because a whole range of skilled pharmacists across areas of specialty and sub-specialty will be engaged. That should make the government develop the petro-chemical sector. The basic raw material we need as a nation is Benzene-zinc. With the right things done, over a million jobs can be created from the pharmaceutical industry,” he noted.

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