COVID-19: $1.5m clinical trial, vaccine choice delay supplementary budget

THE Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Thursday, said the supplementary budget for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines was being delayed due to several factors, including the choice of vaccine to settle for and the cost, among others.

Ehanire disclosed this while speaking at the Presidential Ministerial press briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said, “There are different prices for the vaccines and we don’t know the exact one we’re getting. And we also know that the ones we’re getting from COVAX are at no cost to us.

“So, what we are doing is that the additional ones that we’re going to get will take care of 50 million Nigerians, COVAX will take care of 20 million; they are even offering to take care of more than that; maybe up to 30 million.”

Speaking on the prices of the vaccines, the minister said the prices varied and the government needed to weigh the alternatives before going to shop.

This, he said, explains the delayed supplementary budget.

“The prices vary; some vaccines are in the neighbourhood of $20 or $30, others are $5 or $6. So, to make a budget, we are working on a rough sketch, some money has been earmarked.

“But Mr. President has also announced that there will be a supplementary budget. However, we want to get a clearer picture first before we submit a budget.

“So, we only have rough figures and as soon as those figures are clear, we can continue. If we have to make the payments, we can find some money to do that. But when that budget time comes, we need some precise information.”

In a similar vein, Ehanire disclosed that in spite of its willingness to produce COVID-19 vaccines locally, the government was currently incapable because of the $1.5 million costs of clinical trial.

He said a Nigerian researcher has developed a COVID-19 vaccine “candidate” with a high likelihood of success but the cost of the clinical trial has impeded any progress in that line.

Expert links vaccine shortage to reliance on donors

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof Oyewale Tomori, has attributed the shortage of COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria to unpreparedness on the part of the government.

Tomori said although the country had the resources, it was busy waiting for donations.

Ehanire, had while featuring on Good Morning Nigeria, a programme on the Nigerian Television Authority, said the shortage of vaccine was a huge challenge to the country.

But Tomori, who spoke in an interview with our correspondent, blamed government’s unpreparedness for the situation.

He said, “Selfish interests have overridden national interests. I attribute this to lack of principles and unpreparedness. We have the resources; we didn’t need to depend but we were waiting for donations.”

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