Vaccine production, Nigeria’s rocket science


Sixteen years after the Federal Government and May & Baker Nigeria Plc incorporated Biovaccines Nigeria Limited as the special-purpose vehicle to revive vaccine production locally, it has yet to deliver on its mandate. YUSUFF MOSHOOD reports

Biovaccines Nigeria Limited was incorporated in 2005 as a special firm to revive vaccine production activity in Nigeria, being a joint venture between the Federal Government and May & Baker Nigeria Plc.

While May & Baker owns 51 percent of the company, the Federal Government owns the remaining 49 percent of its shareholding.

The expectation when BVNL was established in 2005 was that it would leverage on the strength of May & Baker– its parent company and Nigeria’s first pharmaceutical firm –to end the long wait for locally-manufactured vaccines.

“The objective of Biovaccines Nigeria Limited is to produce safe and affordable human vaccines for Nigeria and reverse the situation of high mortality from immunisable diseases. It also plans to create a regional centre for vaccine production in West Africa and position Nigeria as a global player in the vaccine business,” its corporate bio states.

However, 16 years after, BVNL is yet to deliver on its grand objective.

 What went wrong

According to PUNCH HealthWise findings, the 2005 joint venture agreement between the FG and May & Baker concerning BVNL’s operations broke down and was only revived in 2017 when a new Memorandum of Understanding vetted by the Federal Executive Council was signed.

The signing of the MoU in 2017 also led to the inauguration of the Board of Directors for BVNL. It was a seven-member board, with three members from the government, while the other four members who will run the company are designates of May & Baker.

According to the MoU, Biovaccines Nigeria Limited is mandated to build local capacity in vaccine manufacturing, develop a research and development centre for vaccines and roll out the first locally produced vaccines by 2019.

The immediate focus was the production of yellow fever, tetanus and hepatitis B vaccines, all of which have remained a pipe-dream so far.

The company is also expected to revive the moribund Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory in Yaba, Lagos, which it acquired under the agreement.It’s been four years since the MoU was signed, yet there is no locally-made vaccine, either by the BVNL or any local entity for that matter.

Visit to Biovaccines Nigeria Limited

A visit to BVNL facility in Yaba, Lagos, indicated that work was ongoing there.However, a request by our correspondent to be taken on a tour of the facility was turned down.

The Chief Operating Officer of the company, Mr. Everest Okeakpu, told our correspondent to come with a formal letter of request, stating the objectives of the visit before an appointment could be fixed.