Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said Nigeria has made significant progress in developing a vaccine to tackle the novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) since the nation recorded its first case last year.
Osinbajo, in a statement by his media aide, Laolu Akande, made this known during a facility tour of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Reference Laboratory, Gaduwa, Abuja, accompanied by the minister of health, Dr Osagie Ehanire; minister of state for health, Dr Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora; and the director-general of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.
The statement said while noting, "that we have a critical situation on our hands currently with the increasing number of cases being recorded," the vice president, however, added a lot of progress has been made since Nigeria's first case was reported in February 2020.
"We have activated nearly 120 laboratories nationwide - 70 of them public laboratories - and have significantly ramped up our testing and case management capacity.
"We have expanded the footprint of our sovereign public health response capabilities especially at the subnational level and in areas where previously such capabilities did not exist. Not so long ago, test samples had to be flown out of the country for examination. This is no longer the case as we now have the capacity to process samples internally," it said.
The statement observed such an achievement should not be taken for granted, but must be consolidated.
"This very facility is a testament to the strides that we have made during a short period. While we are not yet where we want to be as a nation, we are most certainly not where we were at the onset of the pandemic," it stated.
It further said the vice president applauded Nigeria's public and private healthcare specialists and workers in the line of duty for ensuring the safety, cure and prevention of majority of Nigerians from the COVID-19 virus, sometimes under extremely challenging circumstances.
According to it, "thousands of health professionals have been working tirelessly on Nigeria's COVID-19 public health response. From the people across sample collection sites and laboratories ensuring testing, and our dedicated physicians, nurses and other health workers in treatment centres providing care to the sick, to our medical scientists that are conducting research on various aspects of this plague. We also have State Public Health Teams working hard to ensure data reporting and analysis, contact tracing, risk communications and so much more.
"Within this period, you have all worked extremely hard to activate testing in all states of our country, you have increased our knowledge of this disease, grown our capacity to swiftly identify those infected by the plague and render aid to them.
"I know that the work you do can often seem thankless and the long hours you put in unnoticed and unappreciated. Often it happens in the background and in the shadows, away from public attention, and it will not often grab the headlines. But it only seems this way, in truth, this is the sort of work that builds nations and saves lives.
"When the record of our response to this unprecedented threat to our public health is written, the efforts of our healthcare professionals will occupy a significant place with the thanks of a grateful nation."
The statement said he also gave special commendation to NCDC, adding, "the excellent work I have witnessed today at the NCDC Reference Laboratory, is one of the best examples of how this pandemic has produced at least one silver lining, a showcasing of the remarkable skills and talents of our public health experts, here at NCDC and across the health sector.
"It is fair to say that the staff of the NCDC and all those engaged in Nigeria's COVID-19 public health response, represent public service at its very best in Nigeria, and are an example of the type of public sector that we all want.
"So, to all staff of the NCDC and public health teams across the states, thank you for the excellent work that you do. I want you all to know that your country is extremely proud of you. Incredible as it may sound, you are indeed making history every single day."
It also said the vice president commented on the ground-breaking research of several Nigerians towards creating a cure for the COVID-19 virus.
"Last week I was in briefing meetings, listening to the landmark research of a team of professors from LUTH who are investigating the efficacy of some of the drugs in the therapeutic management of COVID-19 and are researching its prophylactic use.
"A few days later I was listening to Professor Christian Happi and his team who have produced a ground-breaking COVID-19 rapid test but more remarkably, are developing a Nigerian anti COVID-19 vaccine," it added.
It urged Nigerians to continue to comply with COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical measures, tasking all Nigerians to comply with the advice of scientists and healthcare professionals and to continue to take every measure to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, adding he also paid tribute to the memory of the late NCDC staff, Uche Njoku, who died in the course of service.