The Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has charged the pharmaceutical industry and the private sector to work collectively with government to achieve better healthcare for the nation.
Ihekweazu made this call at the third public lecture of the Board of Fellows (BOF) of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), which held at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.
Speaking on the theme of the occasion, "National Development and Healthcare System: Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic", Ihekweazu recalled that after Madagascar made its vaccine, there were calls to follow suit.
"During the calls to use unproven methods, we heard very little from the professional science organisations to dispel these misconceptions and explain the principles of clinical trials, especially how decisions are made about therapeutic interventions".
With this, he challenged members of PSN to protect the government's credibility by speaking up. "Do not keep quiet when these questions come up. Raise your voices because the government has a credibility challenge in our country.
"As we face this challenge, we have a big challenge with access. This brings me to thinking about the role of the pharmaceutical industry and how we need to produce more locally. Even when interventions are brought, access to them is a challenge. When there is access, the cost is a challenge."
According to the NCDC DG, the outbreak has taught him that no one can do it alone. "We tend to celebrate individuals and groups in our country. We must celebrate together."
While acknowledging India as a vaccine manufacturer of the world, he noted that India has been working on this for decades, building up their sciences.
And on how Nigeria can be positioned to do so in the future like India, Ihekweazu concluded, "We can only do so by working together.
"We are focused on this in small ways, and we have learnt from different things and how important it is to really tap into local knowledge in local industry, in entrepreneurship, in science, bringing the private sector to help us with the raising of finances to the governance, and writing of business cases."
He further reminded participants that there is a lot of global funding available for vaccine manufacturing while lamenting that "We are finding it very difficult because we haven't positioned ourselves well enough in a way to attract this."
Therefore, he enjoined the pharmaceutical industry on the need for co-creation. "Together we might be able to build up an opportunity for the future, and support each other with the private sector in building up a local market that will drive the opportunity into the future."
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who tasked BOF PSN to help talk to people to get the vaccination, worried that the vaccines are getting scarcer.
Represented by Mr. Andrew Adejo, he assured participants that the government would continue to increase its vigilance. "We have stepped up surveillance and we are also escalating our risk communication and community engagement strategy to reach as many people as possible."
Mustapha, however, pledged that the government on its part would continue to bring team policies, provide regulations that would provide a level playing field for every professional within that sector.
"I call on the BOF PSN to take serious advantage of opportunities that COVID-19 has brought in respect of the health system research development intervention funds, a N100 billion fund," he urged.
In his remarks, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, emphasised his commitment to improve healthcare in the state and the working conditions of all health professionals.
Sanwo-Olu, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Olusegun Ogboye, said the governor has shown this by his approval for a quick exit replacement of all health workers who are exiting due to retirement or other reasons.