EU Set To Invest €18m In Nigeria Vaccine Research

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The European Union (EU) has pledged 18 million euros to finance vaccine research in Nigeria. The Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Amb. Samuela Isopi announced this in Abuja at the presentation of The National Plan for Vaccine Research and Development and Local Production 2024-2034.

The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) created the strategy with funding from the EU and the Bulgarian government. At the meeting, Isopi, who was represented by Prof. Leila Mathieu, stated that the EU was in line with the country’s aims. She went on to say that the plan’s inception came at the perfect time.

She said that the minister of state for health was also taking the plan to the highest level with the EU to discuss other parts of it. “When we do a plan, we have to put money into research, but then manufacturing must follow. “So, we are going to invest 18 million euros in research in vaccines in Nigeria with full grants to some public research institutions and other implementing partners.

“We will be working closely with your ministry and of course, your public institutions on that and we will be working closely also in a Team Europe spirit with Bulgaria.

“Manufacturing of vaccines is a Team Europe initiative with Africa on a continental level so we have other partners at the African level. I also heard from the minister that you were aiming at having a biomedical institute in the capital and that’s also something we could look into and link to research but probably also research on vaccines as well.”

Isopi added that the EU had several other smaller projects in the pipeline in Nigeria on public health institutions and digital health that it would develop. The Bulgarian Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Yanko Yordanov said that on his arrival to Nigeria three years ago, his ambition was to change the pattern from business as usual to acting as a strategic partner of Nigeria.

He said that the partnership with Nigeria in the health sector was regarded as a partnership and an investment in global health because Nigeria as a very big country was part of the global agenda for health care.

“The national plan is the first step; the implementation is what matters and Bulgaria is more than willing to be part of this implementation, both as a partner who provides funding, but also with our national expert base.

“So in Bulgaria, you can count on a vast array of experts in terms of research, development and implementation of vaccines.

“I can reassure you that what we are aiming to do is a sustainable, long-term partnership that will transcend throughout the years.” Yordano added that “the EU is a generous organisation to Africa, and had taken note of Nigeria’s request for more funding and will do what is appropriate in that regard.”

Earlier, the Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Tunji Alausa, commended the EU and Bulgaria for their generous effort towards the country. He said that the partnership was triggered by COVID-19 and a need to begin to locally produce vaccines in Nigeria as the country was presently producing less than one per cent of the vaccines used in the country.

“Unfortunately in a country of 220 million people, it is shocking and sad to know and disappointing to us that we are producing less than one per cent of our vaccines.

“We are importing everything and vaccines should be one of the essential commodities that any country should produce. We know we have a lot of development partners working to help us but we have to build capacity. If our development partners should leave us today, we will be in bigger trouble than where we were and research is the only base that we have to build a sustainable healthcare sector.”

He added that Bulgaria and EU partnering with Nigeria in this sector is commendable. Alausa said that the national plan was a base template to be used to practicalise in a way that the country would begin to produce its own vaccine.

“This national plan covers the entire ecosystem of what we need to do with domesticating our vaccine production.

“This is a document that will be used nationally, NIPRD has taken the lead on this and it will be used as a template for actualising the end.

“The frontal part is done, now let’s go to the operationalisation part and I thank you for the Bulgarian commitment to now support in partnering with us into the next phase.

“We want the Bulgarian Government to use its influence in the EU to look at us as a big population to get the subsequent research grant support that we need,” he added.

The NIPRD Director-General, Dr Obi Adigwe, said that the presentation of the document signified a pivotal milestone in the nation’s journey towards initiating local production of vaccines.

According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore, the national systemic weaknesses in terms of access to medicines and vaccines. “The need to develop local capacity for pharmaceutical manufacturing became more prominent.

“As you all are aware, access to vaccines is key towards achieving Universal Health Coverage because vaccines can also prevent the financial burden of treating diseases and save the citizenry from high medical costs.”

Adigwe added that local manufacturing of vaccines offered several opportunities and prospects for Nigeria’s healthcare system as this was the most effective way to improve the population’s access to vaccines and enhance public health outcomes.

He said it would also provide opportunities for innovations, capacity building, knowledge exchange and socio-economic development. He, however, appreciated the Bulgarian Government and the EU for their unwavering support and invaluable assistance towards expediting local production of vaccines in Nigeria.

The 10-year plan outlines an overarching strategy for all critical areas, including the promotion of vaccines and vaccination research and development. It will also aid the reduction of vaccine hesitancy, improve vaccine access and encourage a shift towards local vaccine production within both public and private health sectors.

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