The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo said the COVID-19 pandemic continues to emphasise the urgent need for innovation and action in vaccine manufacturing and in-vitro diagnostics, not just in Nigeria but across the continent of Africa.
Osinbajo added that vaccine manufacturing capacity in Nigeria would greatly impact the national response to COVID-19 and other diseases and this cannot be left to the government alone.
Osinbajo said this at the 23rd National Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Guild of Private Medical Laboratories Directors on Wednesday in Abuja.
The Vice President who was represented by the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu said 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 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 I encourage us all to listen, learn, engage and make the most out of discussions, speaker presentations and opportunities to connect today”.
“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 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. Diagnostics have continued to play a vital role in our ability to detect COVID-19 cases and has enabled us to mount an effective response to the outbreak”.
“The efficient and smooth operations of medical laboratories in the country are dependent on the leadership, planning and commitment of you all here today”.
“I 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 thousand 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”,
Earlier, the Guild of (Private) Medical Laboratory Directors (of Nigeria), Prince Adibo Elochukwu said they 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 trading 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.
He said as a group, we are happy to contribute positively to the Nigerian Economy in spite of the attendant challenges of insecurity, poor road network infrastructure nationwide, epileptic power supply, the exorbitant bank interest rate for loans, high exchange rate, the rising cost of equipment and reagents, under-utilization of our facilities by NHIS and state Health schemes, rising inflation, multiple taxations 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 Lab Sector very significant”.
“Currently, it is cheering to report that the Laboratory Private Sector alone has well over 80 Private Labs setting up Molecular Laboratories and increasing in-Country testing capacity.
Elochukwu opined that, in the face of the critical role of Laboratory services in modern healthcare, it is still saddening and worrisome that the involvement of the Laboratory Private Sector in this NHIS scheme is non-existent.
“Therefore, we strongly advocate that NHIS, among other interventions, should urgently address the issues of direct selection of Laboratories by enrollees, as currently being done under COVID-19 private laboratories network; of low capacity utilization of secondary healthcare providers such as stand-alone medical laboratory services, In this way, all registered and accredited healthcare provider laboratories and facilities will be integrated into the scheme as well help us scale up quality coverage of more Nigerians”.