Spending N400 billion on COVID-19 vaccines is wrong – Peter Obi

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Former Anambra State Governor and Vice-presidential candidate, Peter Obi has advised the Federal Government on how it can procure vaccines for about N150 billion instead of the purported N400 billion.

Speaking as a guest on Arise TV on Tuesday, the former billion lamented the impact of spending such huge amount on vaccines and he advised the government and health ministry to instead have a direct partnership with a vaccine manufacturing company in India.

Recall that the minister of heath, Osagie Ehanire had in December 2020 said that the country would need to spend N400 billion for vaccines.

Enahire justified that the money would be enough to vaccinate 70% of the countries’ population as advised by World Health Organisation.

Reacting to the sum, Obi said, “Now I hear that we are looking for N400bn, well I am at loss, our budget this year for health is N547bn. I don’t know if they are going to take this vaccine procurement from it, because if they do, we are left with N147bn.

“For the vaccine procurement also, we need to have transparency in the procurement. Today, vaccine in India costs between $2 25 cents to $3. That is an average of $2.75 and if you say you are going to use N400 billion that is about $1bn. If you divide $1bn by $2.75cents each, that is about 350 million doses which is far in excess of what we need.

“WHO said if you can inject 70 percent of your population, that’s it. 70 percent of Nigeria is about 140 million so we are actually looking for 140 million doses. Considering that some other people are going to give us some free, we actually don’t need more than 120 million. But even if we’re buying 140 million, we just need about three hundred and eighty-something million dollars which is about N150bn to buy it.

“If they have a N400bn budget to buy the vaccine, my suggestion, they don’t need to award contracts in this vaccine, let them just call Serum institute in India and plead with them. I am sure they will even give us discount. If they want I can go for the negotiation. It won’t cost more than $2 each.”

Obi also lamented that Nigeria is spending such huge amount on vaccines because the country mismanaged the National Vaccine Production Facility that was set in Yaba in the 1940s.

“The issue of vaccine is one that I feel a sense of pain. Nigeria as a country in 1940 established what we called National Vaccine Production Facility domiciled in Yaba, and that was able to produce virtually all the vaccines we used in the days of smallpox, yellow fever, and that facility was shut down in 1991 to be refurbished and upgraded, there was nothing wrong with it,” Obi said.

“And till today that has been the case deliberately so that people can import vaccines and sell to the government.

Meanwhile, Ehanire on Monday has disclosed that the Federal Government expects 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in February.

He said this 15 million doses is out of the 41 million doses of the vaccines allocated to Nigeria by the African Union’s facilitated through COVAX initiative to arrive in February.

“The date of first arrival of vaccines in Nigeria has kept changing because the decision lies with the manufacturer who already has heavy commitments. According to latest information I have, we have been advised to expect the first COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX to arrive Nigeria as from February,” he said.

“We shall continue to review plans to ensure smooth rollout in our country — a huge task in the hands of NPHCDA, which is better placed than any organisation, with the requisite institutional memory from polio eradication and routine immunisation, to deliver the vaccine to all areas of Nigeria.

“Nigeria has been allocated over 41 million doses by the AU’s African Vaccines Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), and we can expect 15 of about 42 million doses from COVAX. Altogether, it will give us coverage for over 50 percent of our target for 2021, if we can access all doses promised.”

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