The Federal Government has allocated N5.84 billion in the 2021 budget to key agencies saddled with pharmaceutical research and vaccines development, in spite of the global rush for home-grown vaccines, Daily Trust findings show.
The agencies are the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRID) and the National Arbovirus and Vectors Research Centre (NAVRC), Enugu.
NIMR Yaba is highest of the three with N4.23 billion budgeted for the year.
NIPRID’s allocation for the year stands at N1.28 billion.
NAVRC has the lowest provision of N329.48 million.
This comes at a time of increasing pressure on the Federal Government to fast track the production of COVID-19 vaccines at home, to stem the ravaging spread of the virus.
The government last month said it would need N400 billion to vaccinate 70 per cent of Nigerians between now and 2022.
Other countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Mauritius and Botswana have joined the rest of the world in developing their own vaccines.
Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, on Monday announced that the government would provide free vaccines to 103 million Nigerians as provided for in the 2021 budget.
Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, said the Federal Government was working on a supplementary budget proposal to accommodate purchase of additional vaccine doses from pharmaceutical firms abroad.
The two top officials spoke during a virtual briefing on the 2021 budget signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Latest official figures show that Nigeria recorded 101,331 cases of the virus, with 1,361 deaths.
Medical experts, however, say the figure would have been higher if there was capacity to test more people.
Some experts and pharmacists told Daily Trust that more lives would be saved if Nigeria joined other countries that used the talents of their experts and produced the vaccines.
But medical doctors and some researchers said it would be difficult for Nigeria to beat the time considering the speed at which the second wave of the coronavirus is ravaging the world, adding that importing the vaccines at whatever cost remained the only option.
Scientists in some universities interviewed by our reporters said they were conducting researches on COVID-19 vaccines but that producing them was not within their mandates.
The experts said poor funding for research in the health sector by successive governments over the years would make it difficult to produce vaccines, which were capital intensive and required a lengthy research period.
They said Nigeria also lacked infrastructure including laboratories and equipment, manpower as well as technology to produce modern vaccines for viruses like COVID-19.