The COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Federal Government of Nigeria is set for trial by November.
The project, which is a mega research grant intervention tagged, ‘Accelerated development of COVID-19 vaccines using innovative technological approach’, is a collaborative effort involving cluster researchers from five different institutions to consolidate problem-solving research and promote innovation in the country.
Tertiary Education Trust Fund awarded a total of N1.25bn to four clusters of researchers.
One of the clusters, which is the Vaccine Production Cluster, got a total grant of N450m.
According to a statement by TETFUND and made available to The PUNCH in Abuja, the VPC is made up of researchers from the National Veterinary Research Institute Vom; Usman Danfodiyo University Sokoto; Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Jos; Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Lagos; and National Research Institute for Chemical Technology, Zaria.
The statement titled, ‘TETFund-sponsored COVID-19 vaccine ready for trial November’ read in part, “The Vice Chancellor of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Prof Lawal Bilbis, who led the team of researchers to brief the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Sonny Echono, on the progress so far explained that they were able to make the breakthrough through the maximum support of the fund.
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“He recalled how the COVIC-19 pandemic ravaged and unleashed untold hardship on humanity globally, noting that Nigeria was only saved by divine intervention, since the nation was not prepared for such eventuality.
“TETFund believed in us and supported us to get to where we are now. That is why we have come to give a firsthand report on the progress made so far.”
A presentation by Dr Bashir Bello of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, revealed that it had become a matter of urgency for Africa to join the rest of the world in the production of its own vaccine, as it was estimated that the continent currently imports 99 per cent of its vaccines and consumes 25 per cent of global vaccine supply.
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He said, “We graciously got the support of TETFund not only in COVID-19, but also in Lassa Fever and other infectious diseases because whether we like it or not, diseases will continue to emerge and re-emerge. They don’t have international boundaries and that is why they are called pandemic.
“That was when we realised that we really need to sit up. Those producing these vaccines abroad are mostly Nigerians after all. So why can’t we do it here? That is why we decided to form a consortium, and TETFund was magnanimous to release N225m for the first tranche.”
Meanwhile, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Thursday, assured the German-based mRNA vaccine manufacturer, BioNTech, of Nigeria’s readiness to collaborate towards the local production of vaccines.
Buhari said he looked forward to receiving a commitment from the company to expand collaboration to achieve Nigeria’s goal of developing capacities for research, development and manufacturing.
According to a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President stated this when he met with the Executive Chairman of KENUP Foundation and representative of the Chief Executive Officer of BioNTech, the mRNA vaccine patent holder in Africa, Mr Holm Keller, at the State House, Abuja.
The statement is titled ‘mRNA vaccine production: Buhari welcomes exploratory interactions between Nigerian scientists, BioNTech.’
Buhari said, “We are impressed with the numerous possibilities said to be around the mRNA technology, and hence seek cooperation with well-intentioned organisations, including yours, to build a strong bilateral partnership with your company and your affiliate bodies, as science gets closer to understanding the possibilities around successful mRNA technology.”