The Federal Government has been commended for its resolve to invest more to support Nigeria’s pharmaceutical and research agencies to produce locally developed vaccines.
Mr Friday Udoh, Chief Coordinator, Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria (ICEN), South- South, gave the commendation on Friday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
According to Udoh, the President’s pronouncement was appropriate since such investments would reduce the pressure on the Naira as well as the country’s trade deficit.
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Udoh, also member, Society of Behavioural Medicine in the US, said that President Buhari meant well on his administration’s resolve to maximise inherent resources to develop vaccines.
According to him, such a resolve puts Nigeria in a vantage position in the event that another pandemic breaks in the future.
“Human capital abound in the country for improved local pharmaceutical capacity as a means of not only promoting technology transfer, building capacity, but also improving access to essential medicaments to the least in the society.
“The United Nations COMTRADE puts Nigeria’s pharmaceutical products’ import cost in 2019 alone at $1.45 billion and above 70 per cent of drugs consumed in the country is imported.
“This is largely due to weak in-country production capacity, a situation that could hardly be explained at the instance of expenditures on tertiary and research institutions in the country.
“On this note, I will say that I am in tune with the pronouncement of Mr President, since it is going to reduce the pressure on the naira and the country’s trade deficit,’’ Udoh said.
Udoh said, however, that it will hardly be possible for such policy pronouncements to be achieved except there is an evidence-based policy and a proactive framework to meet the objectives.
He said: “Tax incentives and import duty waiver at least for three years on imported pharmaceutical raw materials and machineries are necessary for cost effectiveness.
“Also important is the improvement or introduction of a more robust framework, both in terms of rule-making and improved human capital stocks.
“A number of smaller and medium-sized pharmaceutical companies may not be able to implement quality assurance or financing compliance and recover cost, but large firms because of economies of scale can afford this and still break-even.’’
What is required to grow the local pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, he added, would include special funding to support start-up businesses in the sector.
“This will contain the regulatory cost, enhanced product quality, to compete with the imported products.’’
Buhari had, in his nationwide broadcast on Nigeria’s 61st Independent anniversary on Friday, reminded the global community that the current state of access to COVID-19 vaccines was unacceptable.
He also told the nation that his administration could not afford a situation where a handful of countries keep the global vaccine supply to themselves at the expense of other nations.
“We must act now to accelerate equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. This is the message I conveyed to the international community in New York last week.
“As we push to source vaccines for our immediate needs, we shall invest more to support our pharmaceutical and research agencies to come up with ideas for locally developed vaccines.
“Should another pandemic arise in the future, Our question is simple; will Nigeria be ready?,’’ he stated.
Buhari also directed the Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Health, Education and Science and Technology to work with Nigerian and International pharmaceutical companies and research organisations to enhance Nigeria’s domestic pharmaceutical capacity.
Vanguard News Nigeria