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COVID-19: Buhari, Govs agree on local production of vaccines

President Muhammadu Buhari

Consider involvement of religious leaders, musicians in vaccination

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday  met with the Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors Forum, NGF, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi on the need for local production of Coronavirus vaccines.

This is as President Buhari has expressed the willingness to engage Bishops, Chief Imams, top musicians, sports personalities among others in the COVID-19 vaccination in order to remove the doubts of many Nigerians that may be harboring negative opinion on the vaccine.

The NGF Chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Fayemi disclosed this after meeting with the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

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Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, the NGF boss said that the issue of worsening security situation in the country was also discussed and that the President assured that there would be a remarkable improvement in the security this year.

He said he was at the State House for the usual routine meeting with the President, adding that the meeting being the first in the year, they reviewed a number of issues that were of interest to the the governors such as security, economy, vaccines management and the general outlook for 2021.

Asked what they discussed on vaccines management, he said,  “Well, for us as governors, the number one priority in vaccine management relates to public health and risk communication.

“I commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for at least, wanting to use Mr. President and the Vice President as their publicity vehicles for reassuring those who may have their doubts about vaccines use that, this is no threats to them.

“You know there are cultural and religious concerns in various parts and we are at the state level, we are reviewing that with all of our colleagues.

“But the good thing is, Mr. President has agreed with me that he would convey to the PTF the necessity of using other influencers, maybe the Chief Imams, the Bishops, top musicians, our sports personalities because, the more of such people are seen taking the vaccines the more the likelihood of resistance will break down in our various localities. So, we discussed that.

“Of course, procurement of vaccines we also discussed. Our view is that ultimately, we really need to ramp up manufacturing of vaccines locally. It’s okay that COVAX that Nigeria is part of is going to be delivering some vaccines to us. As we understand, the first 100,000 and then 43 million and ultimately 165 million doses.

“But, there is nothing as good as having the ability to manufacture our own vaccines locally. And we understand that there is a partnership with May & Baker, which is important for the Federal Government to really accelerate, so that we can produce the vaccines here in Nigeria and not be dependent on what is coming from other parts.”

Asked to explain on what he meant by saying that the federal government should accelerate the issue of vaccination, Dr. Fayemi said,” Well, the federal government is already part of the WHO-GAVI Alliance-COVAX partnership and from what we understand from the PTF, vaccines will come from that alliance. Some of it from Pfizer in the first instance and then maybe from other various producers of the vaccines later.

“But there is no clarity as yet as to when these vaccines will arrive Nigeria. So, one of the issues raised with Mr. President is the need to accelerate the delivery of vaccines to the country, so that it will be available to our people.

“Those of us at the receiving end in the states, know that this is an issue we also need to ramp up our own preparedness, in terms of getting our states ready for vaccines storage particularly, the freezers and cold chains that will be required for that process.

“We need to get ourselves ready at the state level. The federal government can procure but we will receive and administer in our various states and there is a lot of work to be done in that respect.”

Fielding question on whether governors will also take the vaccines on live television, he said that the governors would take a lead in order to give confidence to the people.

He said, “Absolutely. We too will like to demonstrate to our citizens that we believe that vaccines would work.  Don’t forget, we have a lot of experience on this. Governors forum managed the polio vaccines administration in the country and we have garnered a lot of experience.

“We have worked with the Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Federal Ministry of Health and will be happy to work with NCDC, PTF, the primary healthcare development agency on this as well. So, we would take a lead as well in our various states.”

On whether states will contribute money to purchase the vaccines, the NGF Chairman responded, “Good question. The details of the financial management of course is something that would be of interest to all the states. But we also know that there are a range of approaches to take, the health approach is there.

“Because, for us at the Governors Forum, it is not just a health issue, it is also a security issue and it is an economic issue too. We would work in partnership, we are involved with PTF, we have a representation at the PTF and we will work with them generally on them.”

Asked on what Nigerians should be expecting after the meeting with the President on security situation, he said that he would not give details of his discussion with the President on that.

He said, “Obviously, you know I won’t go into the nitty gritty of what Mr. President told me on security. But, he said clearly that help is on the way. Mr. President is very determined that this year will see a  rapid reduction in the free access that bandits, kidnappers, criminals have had in the country. I believe there is a whole range of strategies that he is putting in place in order to address that.

“I have also expressed to him the commitment of governors to step up to the plate, both in terms of providing support for our security agencies and also sensitizing our population as well as address the root causes of some of these crimes in our states.

“So, it’s a partnership. He is our commander in chief, we are his field commanders and insecurity is ravaging the land collectively. So we all have do do whatever we can to reduce it and to work in collaboration with the Federal Government.”

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