Nigeria’s federal government has launched a new vaccine policy meant to enhance access and use of vaccines for protection of citizens from infectious diseases.
The government also unveiled the third edition of the national drug policy to ensure adequate supplies of drugs that are effective, affordable, safe and of good quality.
It said the new drug policy would ensure the rational use of drugs and stimulate increased local production of essential drugs.
Speaking at the launch of the maiden edition of the Nigeria Vaccine Policy and the third edition of the National Drug Policy held in Abuja on Thursday, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said the policy would create a supportive environment for access and use of vaccines to set the requirements and mandates for protection of citizens from internal and external harm.
He said there was need to resuscitate the local production of vaccines and intensify research and development.
He also said there was need to strengthen the legislation and regulatory agencies to support quality and safety of vaccines in Nigeria.
Ehanire said the federal government had in partnership with May and Baker Pharmaceutical established the Biovaccine Nigeria Limited, to encourage local vaccine manufacturing.
With the unveiling of the national policy on vaccine, the Minister said Biovaccine Nigeria Limited, other international key players and manufacturers were now expected to use appropriate technologies in modern vaccines production to boost local production of vaccines in Nigeria and make vaccines available to Nigerians and the entire West Africa.
He said: “A Nigeria Vaccine Policy will reflect new realities and trends, including the provisions enumerated in the Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), National Health Act 2014, National Health Policy 2016 and PHC Under One Roof (PHCUOR). This will further ensure the development of strategies that will respond adequately to global health trends for emerging diseases and pandemic that impact on the Nigerian health system.
“Most importantly, the ongoing global efforts to develop COVID-19 vaccines further provide a strong justification for enacting a Nigeria Vaccine Policy in the interest of achieving Vaccine Security in Nigeria,” he said.
Ehanire said it was worthy to note that the implementation strategies for achieving local vaccines’ production and ownership of its supply was achievable with the launch of the policy document.
He asked the governing council of the vaccine company to mobilise resources from governments across all levels, individuals, the international communities, donor agencies.
While expressing delight over the launch of the third edition of the national drug policy, Ehanire said the move came against the backdrop of the overall Health Sector Reform (HSR) Programme of the Ministry.
According to him, “no matter how vibrant a health policy, without availability of good quality and affordable medicines, that policy will be sterile”.
He disclosed that the federal government has been paying special attention to the pharmaceutical sub-sector, adding that the Presidential Forum on the Pharmaceutical Sector held in November 2003, underscored the special focus.
He said the government has also taken a number of pragmatic steps towards boosting the local capacity for the manufacture of essential medicines.
“This is to ensure that the local pharmaceutical industry becomes a major actor in providing good quality essential medicines for our health care programmes.
“The 2005 Fiscal Policy is the most favourable ever, as far as the pharmaceutical sector is concerned. It provides very attractive incentives both to the existing players and prospective investors in the production of life-saving essential medicines.
“It is my earnest hope that the launch of the third edition of the National Drug Policy will further increase the vibrancy of the pharmaceutical sector for the overall improvement of people’s health,” he said.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Mahmuda Mamman, said a National Vaccine policy was required to achieve an effective manufacture, storage, importation and distribution of safe, effective and good quality vaccines to the end users.
He said countries needed to have strong mechanisms that enable informed decision-making about immunisation priorities and the introduction of new programme strategies, vaccines and technologies.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja