The Country Manager Nigeria and Cluster Lead West Africa for Pfizer, Mr Olayinka Subair, has said there is no technical capacity to develop a COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria now.
Subair said this during a courtesy visit to The PUNCH Headquarters in Magboro, Ogun State, on Thursday.
He described vaccine development as a long and technical process with high underlying costs.
He said, “Vaccine development takes, on average, about 12 years. From discovery to experiments and trials, COVID-19 was an exceptional one as it was a global pandemic that needed a quick solution. At Pfizer, for example, most of the processes were done in parallel. Normally, the processes are meant to be done in sequence.
“Because we had already synthesised the vaccine already, we just scaled up from there. Whether Nigeria will be able to do a vaccine for a new disease, it will be very difficult. There are conventional diseases that their vaccines are just generic, like polio, measles and others.”
He added, “But the technology transfer for a disease like COVID-19 that is mutating fast – and there are still so many studies going on around the virus – will take a lot of time.
“We do not have the technical competence or the capacity to develop a COVID-19 vaccine locally yet. For generic diseases like polio or measles, we can take up the end-stage manufacturing for them, but COVID-19 is still largely out of our reach for now.”
According to Subair, the cost of researching and developing a COVID-19 vaccine is over $3bn.
He advised that the government should look into a partnership with the manufacturers of the recently announced malaria vaccine.
Speaking on Nigeria’s pharmaceuticals market, he said, “The major problem in the pharma market is that there are too many entry points; it is not controlled. There are studies that have been published that said that three to four of 10 drugs brought into Nigeria are fake. Medicine is meant to heal and restore life; a lot of deaths have happened because doctors are administering fake drugs to critically ill patients.
“Imagine a scenario where a drug is meant to resuscitate a patient in critical condition within 12 hours and then the doctor now administers a fake drug. Most of these deaths are not from the negligence of the doctors, but because of the poorly structured distribution environment – too many entry points that are not under oversight.”
According to Subair, for the country to curb the prevalence of fake drugs, there is a need for traceability and proper implementation of penalties for pharmacies that sell fake drugs.