Osinbajo Tasks Health Officials on Infrastructure, Local Vaccine Production

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*Seeks more govt funding to curb COVID-19

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has canvassed for more government funding to curb increase in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Osinbajo, who stated this Thursday at a virtual meeting with top government officials and a group of Nigerian scientists, stressed that the pandemic provided an opportunity to ramp up public health infrastructure in Nigeria while government should be doing more in the area of funding..

According to the Vice President, “I think that we must be talking now about local vaccine production, improving the training of laboratory scientists, and generally improving our capacity to respond in various ways.

“We must really focus on the opportunities that this period really gives us. What I have noticed is that unless something like this happens, we are very frequently relaxed and just hope for the best. I think we are in a position now where we can do a lot. In fact, there is the opportunity to do more in terms of government funding.”

“So, I think this is a major responsibility for us, the government, at this time, to really look at how we can, at least, do much better in terms of preparing young men and women for the challenges ahead. This point was also made about the quality of laboratory scientists and the quality of medical personnel and paramedics and all that.”

Osinbajo who spoke after listening to the submission of the experts said: “We are at a point where we can gain tremendously as a people from this pandemic and a lot of what has been said will really help in putting this in perspective for us as government, so we can actually go out and resolve many of these problems and improve the environment for ourselves, and for the coming generations in particular”.

Acknowledging the significance of the interaction with the scientists especially in providing valuable suggestions in addressing the country’s public health challenges, the Vice President noted that “this has been an inspiring intervention and discussion. I say inspiring because it is evident that our experts (whether they are directly engaged or not) are also paying attention not just to an unfolding public health problem but also the very many opportunities that this problem provides for us, the many opportunities to ramp up our public health capacities in various ways.”

Addressing some of the concerns raised at the forum, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire said the country was expecting about 10 million doses of the COVID-19 viral vector vaccine.
According to him, the 10 million doses is aside the 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine being expected in the country, noting that both types of the vaccine would be received, sometime in March 2020.
Ehanire emphasised that the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with other stakeholders had already put in place mechanisms for the management of the vaccines, but emphasized that Federal Government was encouraging the use of IVERMECTIN, while expecting more research done on the prophylactic use of the medication.

While commending the efforts of Nigerian scientists, especially in proffering solutions to the management of the pandemic, the Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu said there was need for the strengthening of enforcement of COVID-19 protocols, calling on state governments to work more closely with the Federal Government. He also assured that public testing was available for free to Nigerians.

In his contribution, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu disclosed that in ramping up testing across the country, the NCDC has adopted rapid testing. He said rapid testing was deployed for the last orientation programme of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

He said the NCDC in collaboration with stakeholders was currently working on building the capacity of medical personnel across the country as part of measures adopted by the Federal Government to boost the country’s infectious disease response capabilities.