THE federal government, yesterday ,called on the Private sector to be fully involved in the vaccine and diagnostics production even as it lauded the efforts of the sector to support its response efforts to COVID-19.
Speaking at the Guild of Medical Laboratory Directors’ 23rd National Conference and Annual General Meeting in Abuja, the vice President, Yemi Osinbajo admitted the efforts of the organised private sector led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID)’s mobilisation of private sector resources to support the response.
The vice president noted that “Throughout the initial response, support poured in, to support first line health workers” ,
Osinbajo, who was the Grand Guest of Honour at the event, described the development as “a demonstration of the strong Nigerian spirit.”
“We keep learning from our successes and challenges and strategising on ways for better preparedness for other emerging diseases.
“The pandemic continues to emphasis the urgent need for innovation and
action, in vaccine manufacturing and in-vitro diagnostics, not just in Nigeria but across the continent of Africa Vaccine manufacturing capacity in Nigeria would greatly impact the national response to COVID-19 and other diseases and this cannot be left to government alone
“As you know, there is a window of opportunity that exists with infectious diseases and health currently being given priority on the national and global agenda. This window requires more than just the usual to be done to ensure that actions follow any plans made to scale-up vaccine and diagnostics production,” the vice president said.
Represented at the occasion by the Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC,) Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the vice president expressed the hope that “the keynote session on Harnessing Resources of Public Private Partnership for the Production of Human Vaccines and in-Vitro Diagnostics in Nigeria will challenge us and foster great conversation and hopefully action towards these necessary.”
“On the continent, we have such valuable expertise, especially within Nigeria. A lot of this expertise is in the room today and | encourage us all to listen, learn, engage and make the most out of discussions, speaker presentations and opportunities to connect today,” he added.
He thanked the Guild of Medical Laboratory Science professionals, who he noted,” have continued to work hard during the ongoing pandemic to ensure that the country’s diagnostics needs are met.”
“Nigerians are grateful for your work and diligence,” he emphasised.
According to him ,”The expansion of the laboratories for COVID-19 testing nationwide from three at the start of the pandemic to now over 140 with the inclusion of private laboratories has been a significant contribution to preserving the health of Nigerians.”
“The inclusion of the private sector was initially considered a risk, but thanks to the proactive leadership of NCDC and the support from the Presidential Task Force, and of course the delivery of private medical laboratories, this risk has paid off.
“Despite predictions of the worst happening in Africa, there are so many lessons being learned from our response globally.
“These lessons range from our proactivity before the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case to a digital tool developed by Nigerians with German partners known as SORMAS. This tool is the reason why we can get daily COVID-19 case updates,” he said.
Osinbajo, while also noting that:”Diagnostics have continued to play a vital role in our ability to detect COVID-19 cases and has enabled us mount an effective response to the outbreak”, said:” The efficient and smooth operations of medical laboratories in the country are dependent on the leadership, planning and commitment” of the organisation.
He spoke further:”! applaud how far we have all come, and the strides we have made in reducing the spread of coronavirus. However, we must remember that the pandemic has unfortunately caused over 180,000 confirmed cases, and over 2000 deaths here in the country and we are currently experiencing a new surge of infections.
“Whilst it has led to harsh disruptions to life globally, it also has provided opportunities for the building of our health sector infrastructure. Never in our lifetimes, have we seen such an expansion in laboratory infrastructure in the public and private sectors in Nigeria.
“A particularly important driver of our ability to build from the disruptions caused by the pandemic is partnerships
“Various aspects of the work done ranging from the enrolment of private sector laboratories with molecular testing capacity into the lab network to the strategic planning and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has been with the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health, sister agencies, other Ministries, Departments and Agencies, development partners, and the private sector working together.
“One area which needs more focus and one which the pandemic has shown to be crucial to bridging gaps and providing for the needs of our population is public-private partnerships
“This response has involved both the public and private sectors. The expansion of COVID-19 testing capacity to over 140 laboratories, with over 50 being private ones (and new ones being added every week) is an indication enough of the value of private sector involvement in health care delivery.
“While we celebrate these strong collaborations, there is still much more to be done
“The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari has provided leadership in the provision of multisector perspectives on the pandemic and our response.”
Earlier, the National President of Guild of Medical Laboratory Directors, explained that this year’s conference “has over 300 registered participants attending physically and virtually with over 100 invited guests and organizations across the 36 states of the federation including the FCT.”
The Guild of (Private) Medical Laboratory Directors (of Nigeria) is a body consisting of Medical Laboratory Scientists in Private (Non-Government) practice.
“The key objective of the Guild is being an instrument through which quality service and professional accountability is ensured in the medical laboratory private sector in our country. Another important objective is to promote the maintenance of high professional and ethical standards in private medical laboratory practice, ensuring that laboratory test results are of the highest reliability while assisting regulatory authorities to stamp out any form of quackery and malpractice that impact on the substance and image of medical laboratories,” he explained.
He added:” We have membership drawn from over 4,000 private medical laboratories across the country, employing over 22,000 skilled and unskilled labour, processing over 91,250,000 pathological samples annually with a trade volume estimated at N456,250,000,000 (approximately $1 Billion) or 5.1% of our 514.076 billion U.S dollars (nominal, 2021 est.) national GDP. “
“As a group, we are happy to contribute positively to the Nigerian economy inspite of the attendant challenges of insecurity, poor road network infrastructure nationwide, epileptic power supply, exorbitant bank interest rate for loans, high exchange rate, rising cost of equipment and reagents, under-utilization of our facilities by NHIS and state Health schemes, rising inflation, multiple taxation amongst others.
” It is a known fact that the Private Sector, including the private Medical Laboratories, contributes about 60-70% of total health care delivery services in the Country and this makes the specific contribution of the private medical laboratory sector very significant,” he further explained.