Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has charged laboratory scientists and experts in infectious disease control in the country to rise to the challenge of manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines locally.

This is just as at the 23rd Annual Scientific Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Guild of Medical Laboratory Directors (GMLD) held in Abuja yesterday, the National President of the association, Mr. Adibo Elochukwu, disclosed that private medical laboratories in Nigeria presently account for an estimated annual trade volume of $1 billion (N456, 250 billion).

While declaring the meeting open, Osinbajo who was represented by the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said there was no doubt that the country possesses the knowledge and expertise to realise the goal of developing local vaccine production facility in no distant time.

He said the outbreak of the virus has continued to emphasise action and innovation in vaccine manufacturing as well as invitro-diagnostics, specifically with regards to invitro diagnostic not only in Nigeria but across Africa.

Osinbajo added: “The vaccine manufacturing capacity in Nigeria will greatly impact on the national response against COVID-19 and other diseases and this should not be left to government alone.

“As you know, the window of opportunity that exists in the development of vaccine is a priority in the national budget.

“This window will not last forever. It requires more than just the usual to ensure that plans are followed up with delivery to scale up our ability to produce the vaccine and invitro-diagnostics that will be used in our country.

“I trust that the keynote session on harnessing the resources of Public-Private Partnership for the production of human vaccine and invitro-diagnostics in Nigeria will be helpful in doing what is necessary.”

He further said one area where the COVID-19 has led to tremendous success was in the area of public-private partnership.

Earlier in his welcome address, Elochukwu praised laboratory scientists for making reasonable contributions to the economy and health of the nation.

In terms of trade volume, Elochukwu said the economic contribution of laboratory scientist translates to 5.1 per cent of Nigeria’s annual Gross Domestic Product.

Also, he disclosed that over 4,000 laboratory firms in the country employ about 22,000 skilled and unskilled labour and process 91, 250,000 pathological samples annually.

Elochukwu said over 80 private laboratories in the country had set up molecular laboratories and have increased in-country testing capacity.

He expressed optimism that governments would rally international and local support organisations for the private sector who hitherto had been grossly excluded from funding allocations as well as research grants.

“We see a huge opportunity if resources from private and government sectors are harnessed to improve Nigeria’s healthcare services, especially in the area of human vaccines production and manufacture of in vitro diagnostics,” he added.

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