By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah
President Muhammadu Buhari and governors of the 36 states of the federation have resolved to speed up efforts at coming out with a locally manufactured vaccine to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, disclosed this to State House correspondents yesterday after meeting with the president at the presidential villa.
Fayemi said he discussed the issue of vaccine exhaustively with the resident.
According to him, it was agreed with President Buhari that beyond shopping for and acquiring vaccines from various sources for Nigerians the ultimate target is ramping up the local manufacturing of the vaccine, adding that there is already a partnership with a manufacturer to that effect.
He said, “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.
“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 43million and ultimately 165million 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”.
For the Nigeria Governors Forum, Fayemi said the priority at the level of the states remained public health and risks communication among the people.
He, however, commended the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for arranging to convey the message of safety of the vaccine to the general population by publicly commencing vaccination process with President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).
He noted: “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 at the state level are reviewing that with all of our colleagues. The good thing is that 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 breaking down in our various localities. So, we discussed that”.
On whether governors would follow the president and vice president’s example of publicly receiving the vaccine, the governor responded in the affirmative.
He said, “Absolutely; we too will like to demonstrate to our citizens that we believe that vaccines would work. Don’t forget that we have a lot of experience on this. The governors’ forum managed the polio vaccines administration in the country and we have garnered a lot of experience.
“We have worked with the Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Federal Ministry of Health and will be happy to work with NCDC, PTF, and the primary healthcare development agency on this as well. So, we would take a lead as well in our various states”.
Asked if states would contribute money to purchase the vaccines, the NGF chairman said, “Details of the financial management, of course, is something that would be of interest to all the states. But we also know that there are a range of approaches to take – the health approach is there. For us at the governors’ forum, it is not just a health issue; it is also a security issue and it is an economic issue too. We would work in partnership. We are involved with PTF; we have a representation at the PTF and we will work with them generally on them”.
On his discussions with the president on security, he said, “What Mr. President told me on security; 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, and other criminals have had in the country.
He stated: “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 addressing 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. We all have to do whatever we can to reduce it and to work in collaboration with the federal government”.
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