Nigeria is expected to roll out its first locally produced vaccines in July 2019, beginning with the drugs against Yellow fever, Tetanus Toxoid and Hepatitis B.To ensure that a firm being floated to achieve this target, Biovaccines Nigeria Limited, meets these promises, May and Baker said it would need to invest $50 million (N18.5 billion) to resuscitate a manufacturing line at the defunct National Vaccine Production Laboratory (NVPL) in Yaba, Lagos, which it has acquired.
Stakeholders said the project would help Nigeria to better respond to emergencies like the recent epidemic of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis (CSM) C that ravaged about 27 states of the federation, generate increased internal revenue and increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
May and Baker Plc, an indigenous pharmaceutical industry penultimate week signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Government, which was vetted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to immediately begin local production of vaccines.
According to the MoU, the project, which is being handled through Biovaccines, will build local capacity in vaccine production as well as develop a centre of excellence for research and development of vaccine technology and other biologics.
Until now, Nigeria depended on the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and other international agencies for the procurement of the vaccines needed by the country.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of May & Baker, Mr. Nnamdi Nathan Okafor, told The Guardian: “I expect that within 24 months, that is within two years from now, the first vaccines should be out. So from the date that the board of Biovaccines is inaugurated, within 24 months, Nigerians should have their first vaccines. We can then build on that.
The efforts to begin local production of vaccines have received the support of most stakeholders in the health sector including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN).
The President of PSN, Ahmed Yakasai, said: “Nigeria will start producing vaccines at least against yellow fever after the agreement signed between the Federal Government and May and Baker. Unfortunately this agreement has been on the drawing board since 2004.”
President of NMA, Dr. Mike Ogirima, said: “The issue of local vaccine production is not a new concept. This idea of resuscitating local vaccine production stems back from 2004. Of course with successive change of administration in Nigeria, you know the challenges it carried with it. So for the present administration to think that May and Baker in conjunction with government is going to float a company, Biovaccines Limited, to resuscitate the Yaba laboratory is an achievement.”
The Chairman of PMG-MAN, Okechukwu Akpa, said: “Prioritising development in the local pharmaceutical manufacturing sector can generate increased internal revenue for the government, significant contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, predictable and reliable growth, forex earnings from exports as well as the growth of related industries and sub-sectors.”