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COVID-19: How Nigeria can successfully vaccinate its over 200m population, by Ahmad Lawan

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday, said that for Nigeria to provide ‘herd immunity’ for its over two hundred million population, efforts must be made by the Federal Government to collaborate with international bodies to develop and produce a vaccine for the purpose.

According to Lawan, the project to develop a vaccine must deploy resources specifically meant to provide the needed environment for Nigerian scientists resident abroad to come up with a vaccine that would serve not only Nigeria’s population, but of other developing countries.

The Senate President made this known during the Public Presentation of a Research Work on the Legislative Efforts and Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by the Young Parliamentarians Forum in collaboration with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in Abuja.

In his address, Sen. Lawan recalled the efforts by the National Assembly and State Assemblies in coming up with legislative interventions such as the economic stimulus package  to help cushion the effect of the lockdown caused by the pandemic.

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He added that such legislative interventions have subsequently extended to long-term legislative proposals that would address the inadequate number of health facilities across the country.

“The legislature was also forthcoming in supporting the executive arm, in formulating policies to cushion the effect of the contagion, particularly because of lockdowns, and the attendant adverse effect on personal and public incomes.

“Talking of public incomes, we know what the National Assembly did, particularly to support the Executive arm of government in passing the economic stimulus package, which we graciously did and, I’m sure the legislatures at the state level did the same in their states.

“The relief package was essentially to support the vulnerable in our country – those at the lower ladder of our economic pyramid.

“The Research work that is being presented today is obviously a study of the multiple dimensions of legislative interventions, consistent with the role of the institution as a coordinate arm of government.

“The work deserves commendation for not just documenting the legislative actions and responses to the pandemic, but for preparing us for projections on what to do, faced with a similar crisis next time.

“I’ll consider that to be the short-term support because this pandemic has revealed so many things, and some of these challenges cannot be addressed immediately. Take for example, the revelation that our health facilities are so inadequate, and even those that are available are in deplorable state.

“It will require some time for the National Assembly and, indeed, the government to provide for what will be ‘adequate’ health facilities across the country. And, in fact, that means it will be a long-term goal of a legislative intervention, but we are determined to go ahead and do that”, Lawan said.

On how to successfully vaccinate Nigeria’s over two hundred million population in record time, the Senate President called on the Federal Government to explore the option of collaborating with international bodies and Nigerian scientists abroad for the development of its own vaccine.

He bemoaned the difficulty posed by the refusal of the European Union and countries such as the United States of America and India to sell vaccines to developing countries.

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According to him, Nigeria has the Human Resources to mass produce the quantity of vaccines needed to achieve ‘herd immunity’ for the country’s population and that of other developing countries in need of the vaccine.

He said, “Let’s also for example consider the vaccine production that today is becoming a necessity for almost every country.

“Today, the United States of America (USA) is trying to ensure that no vaccine leaves its shores until it is able to vaccinate its citizens to provide herd immunity.

“The European Union is doing the same thing, India that produces quite a lot of vaccines with over one billion population is also controlling and stopping exports. Where does that leave us?

“Nigeria has the capacity in terms of the Human Resources to some extent, even though we have lost many of our good ones to the developed world. But some of them are still patriotic, they still want us to have our own vaccine developed.

“This means we have to provide resources for setting up the environment for our scientists to collaborate with international agencies as well as citizens who are now either holding dual citizenships in other countries, or are simply our citizens who have gone to other countries for greener pastures for us to have our own vaccines.

“It is a must, it is a necessity, and it is inevitable, otherwise, Nigeria may not achieve the herd immunity in the next four or five years with our 200 million population.

“And this is not a fact based on any scientific research, I don’t want to be misquoted. I am assuming that if it would take the US up to probably the end of this year to achieve 70 -75 percent vaccination of those that are within the age bracket, developed countries may be looking at next year.

“With our two hundred million and even more, and so far we have only about four million, I don’t know how we can get seventy percent of our people vaccinated, and that will translate to about one hundred and fifty million or even more to vaccinate them in the next two years or even three years.

“So, we need to work hard, provide the legislative intervention in terms of resources and environment for our scientists to work.

“I listened to a Nigerian scientist who is based in the US yesterday, and he said it’ll require only one year for a Nigeria project to get its own vaccine. And the vaccine is not supposed to be for Nigerians only, and that is why we need international collaboration.

“It’ll be a vaccine that can be easily used by other countries, even though when we are able to achieve that, we also target our population first like all other countries are doing.”

Also speaking at the event, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Chairman of the Young Parliamentarian Forum, Hon. Kabir Ibrahim Tukur, said the Covid-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges to legislative duties across the world.

According to the Speaker, the development necessitated emerging requirements in parliamentary procedures which drove innovative techniques to be deployed in a bid to connect the public with legislative actions.

On his part, Chairman of the Conference of Speakers, Rt. Hon. Abubakar Suleiman, said the Research Work on the Legislative Efforts and Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic would assist legislators and policy makers to come up with required framework and laws to better prepare the country and its health institutions ahead of such situations.