Nigeria is to begin production of vaccines in Lagos this year, it was announced yesterday.
Health Minister Prof Isaac Adewole said the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved a proposal to go into a joint venture with pharmaceutical giant May & Baker. The government will hold 49 per cent equity and the company will have the rest.
According to the plan, the company will have an initial capital of N100 million and equity contributions of N1.3 billion and N1.27 billion.
“It will take off in 2017. The company will between 2017 and 2021 produce basic vaccines that we need,” the minister said.
The Federal Government is contributing the Institute of Vaccines Research where the new company will take off as its equity.
The company’s board will be made up of seven people, four from May & Baker and three from the federal Government.
He said: “FEC approved joint venture agreement between the Federal Government and Baker Plc to produce vaccines from 2017-2021.
“The Federal Government is using existing facility at the Federal Vaccine Production Production Lab, Lagos, as our equity. And that has been assessed by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to be about N1.27 billion and May and Baker will put in about N1.3 billion in keeping with the 51, 49 per cent equity participation.
“Between 1940 and 1991, Nigeria was not only producing vaccines, such as smallpox, yellow fever, and anti-rabies vaccines, but we also exported to Cameroon, Central African Republic and a few other countries.
“In 1991, the Vaccine Production Laboratory stopped production ostensibly because government wanted to reactivate and upgrade the facility, which did not take place till today.
“What council did today was to was put life into this joint venture agreement that proposes to establish a company called Bio-vaccines Ltd, which will be jointly owned by Federal Government of Nigeria and May and Becker Plc,” the minister said.
Adewole, with whom were Ministers of Information and Culture (Lai Mohammed), Science and Technology (Ogbonnaya Onu) and Niger Delta (Usani Usani), explained that the FEC had mandated Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami to perfect the agreement. “Hopefully in the next two weeks, we should sign this agreement and we are ready to fly,” he said.
According to him, the agreement was to further secure the lives of Nigerians since the production of vaccines is now considered a security issue.
“. We are quite happy that today it has taken place and we believe that Nigeria has started a journey to vaccines security,” he said.
The minister said he also briefed the council on the meningitis outbreak, adding that the country was almost at the end of it. “What we are now doing is to prepare to ensure that this does not repeat itself next year,” he added.
Council also received briefing on the unfortunate incident where a body was flown into the country from the Democratic Republic of Congo by Kenya Airways.
According to him, the body was brought in without approval. “The standard procedure is that for you to fly a body into Nigeria, you need a waiver, a sort of approval issued by the Federal Ministry of Health and this was not sought.
He assured Nigerians that the body tested negative to Ebola and any of the hemorrhagic fevers, adding: “We know the cause of death but for confidential reasons, we do not have to disclose it. But it is nothing really to worry about.”