State governors have called for the local manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines for the effective immunization of Nigerians against the disease.
They have also called for clarity to be given to the issue of when the vaccines will be available for distribution in the country, stressing the need for public health and risk communication to break down resistance to vaccination.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, gave this position to correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja on Friday.
While speaking on what he discussed with the president, he said: “Well, for us as governors, the number one priority in vaccine management relates to public health and risk communication. I commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for at least, wanting to use Mr President and the Vice President as their publicity vehicles for reassuring those who may have their doubts about vaccines use that, this is no threats to them.
“You know there are cultural and religious concerns in various parts and we are at the state level, we are reviewing that with all of our colleagues.
“But the good thing is, Mr President has agreed with me that he would convey to the PTF the necessity of using other influencers, maybe the Chief Imams, the Bishops, top musicians, our sports personalities. Because the more of such people are seen taking the vaccines the more the likelihood of resistance will break down in our various localities. So, we discussed that.
“Of course, procurement of vaccines we also discussed. Our view is that ultimately, we really need to ramp up manufacturing of vaccines locally. It’s okay that COVAX that Nigeria is part of is going to be delivering some vaccines to us. As we understand, the first 100,000 and then 43 million and ultimately 165 million doses.
“But, there is nothing as good as having the ability to manufacture our own vaccines locally. And we understand that there is a partnership with May & Baker, which is important for the Federal Government to really accelerate so that we can produce the vaccines here in Nigeria and not be dependent on what is coming from other parts.”
On accelerating the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines, Fayemi stressed the need for all stakeholders to be adequately prepared by providing the necessary facilities including for storage.
He added: “Well, the federal government is already part of the WHO-GAVI Alliance-COVAX partnership and from what we understand from the PTF, vaccines will come from that alliance. Some of it from Pfizer in the first instance and then maybe from other various producers of the vaccines later.
“But there is no clarity as yet as to when these vaccines will arrive in Nigeria.
“So, one of the issues raised with Mr President is the need to accelerate the delivery of vaccines to the country, so that it will be available to our people.
“Those of us at the receiving end in the states, know that this is an issue we also need to ramp up our own preparedness, in terms of getting our states ready for vaccines storage particularly, the freezers and cold chains that will be required for that process.
“We need to get ourselves ready at the state level. The federal government can procure but we will receive and administer in our various states and there is a lot of work to be done in that respect.”
He explained that his meeting with the president was to review a number of issues that are of interest to state governors including security economy, vaccines management and the general outlook for 2021.
On insecurity in the country, the NGF boss said President Buhari has assured him that things will change in 2021.
While not giving details of the security discussion with the president, Fayemi said: “Obviously, you know I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of what Mr President told me on security. But, he said clearly that help is on the way. Mr President is very determined that this year will see a rapid reduction in the free access that bandits, kidnappers, criminals have had in the country.
“I believe there is a whole range of strategies that he is putting in place in order to address that. I have also expressed to him the commitment of governors to step up to the plate, both in terms of providing support for our security agencies and also sensitizing our population as well as address the root causes of some of these crimes in our states.
“So, it’s a partnership. He is our commander in chief, we are his field commanders and insecurity is ravaging the land collectively. So we all have do whatever we can to reduce it and to work in collaboration with the Federal Government.”
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