State governors have called on the Federal Government to expedite actions towards ensuring local production of COVID-19 vaccine instead of completely relying on the ones to be brought into the country. The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi, disclosed this to State House correspondents on Friday after a meeting he had with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Fayemi, who is the governor of Ekiti State, said he seized the opportunity of the meeting with the President to review a number of issues that are of interest to him and his fellow state governors and listed the issues to include security, economy, vaccines management and the general outlook for 2021.
When asked what he discussed with the President concerning vaccine management, the governor said they discussed the need to include religious leaders and celebrities among those that will be vaccinated in public to boost people’s confidence.
He added that it is the view of the state governors that the nation needs to ramp up manufacturing of vaccines locally.
Fayemi said, “For us as governors, the number one priority in vaccine management relates to public health and risk communication. I commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for at least, wanting to use Mr President and the Vice President as their publicity vehicles for reassuring those who may have their doubts about vaccines use that this is no threat to them.
“You know there are cultural and religious concerns in various parts and we are at the state level, we are reviewing that with all of our colleagues. But the good thing is Mr President has agreed with me that he would convey to the PTF the necessity of using other influencers, maybe the chief imams, the bishops, top musicians and our sports personalities.
“The more such people are seen taking the vaccines, the more the likelihood of resistance will break down in our various localities. So, we discussed that.
“Of course, procurement of vaccines was also discussed. Our view is that ultimately, we really need to ramp up the manufacturing of vaccines locally. It is okay that COVAX which Nigeria is part of is going to be delivering some vaccines to us. As we understand, the first 100,000 and then 43 million and ultimately 165 million doses.
“But there is nothing as good as having the ability to manufacture our own vaccines locally. We understand that there is a partnership with May & Baker, which is important for the Federal Government to really accelerate so that we can produce the vaccines here in Nigeria and not be dependent on what is coming from other parts.”
Fayemi said since there was no clarity on when the vaccines will arrive in Nigeria, he also discussed with the President the need to accelerate the delivery.
“Those of us at the receiving end in the states know that this is an issue. We also need to ramp up our own preparedness, in terms of getting our states ready for vaccines storage particularly, the freezers and cold chains that will be required for that process.
“We need to get ourselves ready at the state level. The Federal Government can procure but we will receive and administer in our various states and there is a lot of work to be done in that respect,” the governor added.
On whether state governors will also be willing to take the vaccines on live television, Fayemi said, “Absolutely. We too will like to demonstrate to our citizens that we believe that vaccines would work.
“Don’t forget that we have a lot of experience with this. Governors Forum managed the polio vaccines administration in the country and we have garnered a lot of experience.
“We have worked with the Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Federal Ministry of Health and we’ll be happy to work with NCDC, PTF, the primary healthcare development agency on this as well. So, we would take the lead as well in our various states.”
The governor also said the details of the financial management of the vaccines remain something of interest to all the states.
“But we also know that there is a range of approaches to take, the health approach is there. Because, for us at the Governors Forum, it’s not just a health issue, it is also a security issue and it is an economic issue too.
“We would work in partnership, we are involved with PTF, we have a representation at the PTF and we will work with them generally on them,” he added.
On security, Fayemi said the President was determined that this year will see a rapid reduction in the free access that bandits, kidnappers and other criminals have had in the country.
He said, “I believe there is a whole range of strategies that he is putting in place in order to address that. I have also expressed to him the commitment of governors to step up to the plate, both in terms of providing support for our security agencies and also sensitising our population as well as address the causes of some of these crimes in our states.
“So, it is a partnership. He is our commander in chief, we are his field commanders and insecurity is ravaging the land collectively.
“So, we all have to do whatever we can to reduce it and to work in collaboration with the Federal Government.”
By Olalekan Adetayo,