Nigeria’s federal government says it’s planning to commence local manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines in the next 12 months.
This is just as the federal government said it has concluded the training of about 40,739 health workers across the nation for the phase two vaccine roll out.
The Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, who revealed government’s planned local manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines while speaking on ARISE News Channel’s ‘The Morning Show,’ also said the agency has commenced clinical trials on three local herbal medicinal products for the treatment of the virus.
Adeyeye said the government was concerned about the absence of medicine security and its implications for the healthcare needs of the people.
She said the federal government was particularly worried about current challenges posed by inadequate supply of the vaccines to take care of millions of Nigerians, adding that the government was working diligently to start local manufacturing of the vaccine.
When asked to give update on the plan to establish a factory in Nigeria that would undertake local manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines, Adeyeye said: “In terms of local manufacturing, the federal government is working assiduously to ensure that there will be local manufacturing of vaccines within a year.”
According to Adeyeye, with less than two per cent of the country’s population vaccinated so far, the federal government was conscious of the constraints posed by lack of drug security.
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Adeyeye further said NAFDAC has initiated a process to develop herbal medicine products in the country by setting up the Herbal Medicine Product Development Committee to advance the development of herbal medicine.
She added that the purpose was to bring herbal medicine practitioners and researchers together so as to subject their products to scientific investigation.
She described the development of herbal medicine as a very complicated process.
According to Adeyeye, NAFDAC undertakes a rigorous process in approving herbal medicines for the listing by inspecting the premises of the practitioner to ensure that it meets the required hygienic standards
She also said the agency runs a number of relevant tests before approving herbal medicine products for listing.
In addition, Adeyeye disclosed that NAFDAC has so far commenced clinical trials on three herbal medicine products with a view to confirming their efficacy for the treatment of COVID-19.
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have approved 45 herbal medicines for listing for temporal approval but you cannot say that they cure COVID-19. Out of these numbers, two or three herbal medicine products have started clinical trials,” she said.
Adeyeye said listing a product only means that it is now safe for consumption but does not confirm how efficacious such a medicine would be until it is subjected to clinical trials.
“It does not confirm how efficacious such herbal drug is until it is subjected to clinical trials. To do clinical trial, it has to be well designed. It is not just that I gave it to 10 people in my village and it worked, but you have to do it in such a way that it will attract recognition across the world. That clinical trial stage is what is going on now,” she said.
Adeyeye also spoke of the Central Bank of Nigeria assisted initiative known as the Research and Development Intervention Scheme which provides funds to assist local production of medicine.
“It cost a lot of money, that is why the CBN is helping to put some money into this intervention scheme for those who are successful during the grant review process,” she added.
Meanwhile, the federal government said it has concluded the training of about 40,739 health workers across the country for the phase two strategic vaccine roll out.
Nigeria had received 4,000,080 doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine donated by the government of the United States, last Sunday, and has scheduled the commencement of the second phase of vaccination for August 16.
While addressing journalists on Tuesday in Abuja, the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said the country would be receiving 176,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines today.
He said: “These 176,000 doses as you are aware, are coming out of the 29,850,000 doses that the federal government procured from the AfreximBank through the African Union.”
Speaking on preparations for the take-off of the second phase of the COVID19 vaccination campaign, Shuaib said the agency was training 40,739 health workers across the country.
“We are currently wrapping up the training of about 40,739 health workers across the national, state and ward levels on our phase two strategic vaccine roll out plan with focus on improving the delivery, communication, data management, management of the vaccines and logistics that are needed.
“A total of 3,363 teams will be used; 2,690 teams manning the fixed post and 673 manning temporary fixed post which will go from settlement to settlement especially around areas where people will congregate. For example, the houses of the traditional leaders, the markets and motor parks,” he said.
On the criteria for administering the Modena vaccine, Shuaib said any person who is 18 years and above would be eligible to receive it or any other brand of COVID-19 vaccine available.
However, he said it was pertinent to state that mixing one brand of vaccine with another brand in first and second dose is not allowed.
“Those who have received AstraZeneca as first dose should receive AstraZeneca as second dose, while those who will receive Moderna as first dose will receive Moderna as second dose when due. In a few days, we will take delivery of additional AstraZeneca vaccine and those who are due for second dose of the vaccine will be prioritised,” he said.
He added, “Moderna is two doses, four weeks apart; Oxford AstraZeneca is two doses with six to 12 weeks apart; and Pfizer is two doses, three weeks apart.”
He however added that brands such as Johnson and Johnson would require a single dose for full protection against the virus.
According to Shuaib, the initial doses of Johnson and Johnson would be focused on those who are in the hard-to-reach areas (riverine areas, desert areas) and the elderly because they are people who may find it difficult to leave their homes to the health facility for a second dose.
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Shuaib assured Nigerians of the high quality COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of brand.
“As long as they have been approved by NAFDAC, they provide adequate protection against the disease. We want to further assure Nigerians that we have strategised with our partners so that there is no confusion on which vaccines will be given to whom.
“For example, all those who have taken their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccines and are due for their second dose would be given theirs this August as we are expecting up to 588,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX facility.
“This is the first batch that will be coming in the next couple of days. Thereafter, we will be expecting up to 3.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines to complement what we already have and to make sure we cover not only those who will be taking their second AstraZeneca vaccine, but also for those who will want to take their first dose of this vaccine,” he said.
Shuaib explained that the reason government had to postpone the launch date of the vaccine was because it wants NPHCDA in conjunction with NAFDAC to trace all the way to health facility where the vaccines would be administered.
World Health Organisation’s (WHO), Country Representative, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said the world body would continue to support government to implement measures that would maximise the impact of the second phase of COVID-19 vaccination, including simplifying the roll out at local levels as well as minimising wastage.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja