Locally made COVID-19 vaccine for November trial

The federal government-developed COVID-19 vaccine will be tested in November

The PUNCH reports that the project, a mega research grant intervention labeled “Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Development Using an Innovative Technology Approach,” is a collaborative effort involving cluster researchers from five different institutions to consolidate problem-solving research and innovation in the country.

The PUNCH had previously reported that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund has awarded a total of N1.25 billion to four clusters of researchers.

One of the clusters, the Vaccine Production Cluster, was awarded a total grant of N450m.

According to a statement from TETFUND and made available to our correspondent in Abuja, the VPC consists 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 of Chemical Engineering, 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 become the Executive Secretary of TETFund To inform, Sonny Echono, on the progress so far, explained that they have been able to make the breakthrough due to the maximum support of the fund.

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“Recalling how the COVIC-19 pandemic devastated and unleashed humanity worldwide, he noted that Nigeria was only saved by divine intervention as the nation was not prepared for such a contingency.

“TETFund believed in us and supported us to get to where we are today. That is why we have come to report first-hand on the progress made so far.”

A presentation by Dr. Bashir Bello of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, revealed that it had become an urgent matter for Africa to join the rest of the world in producing its own vaccine, as it was estimated that the continent is currently 99 per percent of are vaccines and consume 25 percent of the world’s vaccine supply.

He said: “We have graciously received TETFund’s support not only with COVID-19, but also with Lassa Fever and other infectious diseases because whether we like it or not, diseases will continue to crop up and reappear. They have no international borders and that is why they are called pandemic.

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“Then we realized that we really had to sit up straight. After all, those who produce these vaccines abroad are mostly Nigerians. So why can’t we do it here? So we decided to form a consortium and TETFund was generous to release N225m for the first tranche.”

Meanwhile, the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Retd.), Thursday assured Germany-based mRNA vaccine manufacturer BioNTech that Nigeria is willing to cooperate on local vaccine production.

Buhari said he looked forward to a commitment from the company to expand cooperation to achieve Nigeria’s goal of developing research, development and manufacturing capabilities.

According to a statement signed by his special adviser for media and publicity, Femi Adesina, the president stated this during a meeting with the executive chairman of KENUP Foundation and representative of the Chief Executive Officer of BioNTech, the holder of the mRNA vaccine patent 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.’

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Buhari said: “We are impressed by the numerous opportunities reportedly surrounding mRNA technology, and are therefore seeking collaboration with well-meaning organizations, including yours, to build a strong bilateral partnership with your company and your affiliates, as science gets closer, to understand the possibilities surrounding successful mRNA technology.”

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