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Trade, investment Minister tasks Pharmacists on Covid-19 vaccine production

A researcher at Protein Sciences moves a vial in a lab, Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Meriden, Conn. The biotech company is currently researching a vaccine for COVID-19. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

 Abiola Seun The Ministry of State for Industry, Trade and Investment has urged Nigerian pharmaceutical companies to ultilise the licensing provision of the Trade Related aspect on Intellectual Property (TRIPS), Waivers Agreement for COVID-19 to establish vaccine production plants for the country.This appeal was made by the Minister of State Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb. Maryam Katagum, at the 9th African Day of Standardisation 2022 Symposium, organised by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in collaboration with the African Organisations for Standardization (ARSO) in Lagos.The Minister disclosed that WHO’s declaration of coronavirus as a global public health emergency and inability of some countries to get the COVID-19 vaccine, have made some countries issued compulsory licences for vaccine manufacturing.According to her, both the public and private pharmaceutical companies should take advantage of the opportunity to ensure that Nigeria starts production of vaccines not only for COVID-19, but for other infectious diseases in case of future pandemics.“Nigeria should ultise the patent waivers in TRIPS agreement to begin vaccine production. The TRIPS Waivers Agreement for COVID-19 licensed African countries including Nigeria to start production of vaccines for the next five years.“Five years is a very short time to come by; therefore, pharmacists should scale up efforts in this regard,” she said.The minister also called on Africa and Africans to pay attention to promoting home-made solutions to some of the challenges confronting the continent.According to her, the theme of symposium is very apt, in view of the fact that the world is still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.She said the need for development of the pharmaceutical industry on the continent in line with the laid down standards, became more apparent in the face of COVID-19 pandemic.“It is imperative to note that the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area has turned our continent into one huge market and provided us the competitive edge in trading with other continents.

“The need to promote intra-African trade and commerce, becomes even more compelling in order not only to take optimum advantage of the huge African Market, but to position the continent against future pandemics,” Katagum said.The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Benin, Prof. Ray Ozolua, said that African pharmaceutical and medical needs secured device economy.Ozolua, the guest speaker at the event, said that the most medical equipment were being imported into Nigeria.He suggested that items such as bandages and dressing, gloves, facemasks, syringes, needles, diagnostic imaging among others should be manufactured locally. He identified the barriers to local manufacturing of pharmaceutical/medical devices as limited availability of needed raw materials, expensive startup costs and poor international competitiveness.“The major problem of Africa and Nigeria in particular is lack of compliance with standard and if the government can strengthen standardization by providing adequate funding and facilitating healthy supply chain. The quality of good and services will be assured, demand will increase and industries will gain,” he said.Speaking earlier, the director-general of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Malam Farouk Salim, said lack of adequate financing facilities was a major challenge to growth and development of pharmaceutical industry. According to Salim, most banks in the country found it difficult to finance pharmaceutical investments, which were often capital intensive projects.He said: “Obviously, boosting local production in the pharmaceutical industries will save and strengthen African economies.“It will also support local jobs creation, save import expenditure, while triggering industrialisation, manufacturing, intra-African trade and sustainable development in the continent, but financing facilities remain the major challenge.”He said as part of the celebrations of the 2022 African Day of Standardization, a quiz and essay competition was organised for secondary school students last month.

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