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NIPRD DG Calls for Local Vaccine Development

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The Director-General of the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Dr Obi Adigwe, has called for the inauguration of a National Vaccine Development Technical Working Group with a working secretariat.

This, according to him, will help overcome the challenges hindering vaccine development and production in the country.

He made his position known while making a presentation at a just-concluded National COVID-19 Summit in Abuja.

The summit was put together by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 to fashion out solutions towards ending the pandemic and building back the economy better.

The two-day summit which started with technical sessions was with the theme Pushing through the Last Mile to End the Pandemic and Build Back Better.

The objectives of the event, among others, was to review the country’s COVID-19 response from February 2020 to November 2021- to identify successes, gaps, and lessons learnt; identify resources and develop strategies that will actualize the country’s expressed international commitments towards ending COVID-19 by December 31, 2022; develop an accountability framework for COVID-19 response and health security in Nigeria.

Others included synthesizing the blueprint for Nigeria’s pandemic recovery, reconstruction, health security, and sustainability; and articulating actionable recommendations to President Muhammadu Buhari on the governance structure, resources, and policies needed to end COVID-19 in Nigeria by December 31, 2022, and build back the health system and the economy to better respond to future health-security threats.

The NIPRD DG further called for the establishment of a Vaccine Research and Development Fund with sustainable funding strategy; mapping of human and infrastructural resources and capacities and gaps.

He also put forward that there is a need to set up a 10-year development agenda with key milestones – prioritizing capacity development strategy (human, laboratory and production); identifying and targeting diseases of national priority for vaccine R&D; strengthening linkages among key institutions and the private sector; attracting competent/skilled human resources from the diaspora and strong international cooperation, partnerships and collaboration.

Dr Adigwe, however, identified that political will coupled with the provision of a clear local vaccine development agenda and Research and Development (R&D) prioritization and coordination across efforts are key to achieving local vaccine development and production in Nigeria.

The NIPRD Director-General also revealed that limited access to finance, weak infrastructure (R&D and production), low technological capacity and weak regulatory environments are among the factors frustrating vaccine development and production in Nigeria.

He, therefore, vowed that NIPRD remained committed to continuing its statutory mandate in undertaking R&D activities that will not only improve access to health, but also contribute to the economy, and to national development.

“We have, and will continue to play a lead role in articulating the prioritization of pharmaceutical independence.

“The epidemiological nature of the diseases in Africa, together with the relevant demographic indices, means that a robust engagement with the pharmaceutical sector can provide an innovative model which can uniquely improve healthcare access whilst stimulating socio-economic development.

“Solutions for African healthcare issues must come from Africans who have the willingness and capacity to engage vigorously with relevant issues.

“NIPRD has demonstrated cognate capacity, experience and expertise to lead this intervention and remains partnership-ready to collaborate with other critical stakeholders towards the achievement of health and wealth for all,” he noted.

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