In African nations like Nigeria, the ability to secure vaccines largely hinges on the financial assistance provided by global health organizations. This has given rise to a complex relationship, often characterized as a reliance on external support for healthcare interventions. However, this dynamic allots only a fraction of the funding to low-income countries, perpetuating an unequal distribution of resources. A recently conducted evaluation in 2021 titled “Addressing power asymmetries in global health: Imperatives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” highlights a prevalent issue where international benefactors and funding entities, often portrayed as saviours, tend to financially support endeavours that primarily align with their own interests.
Despite efforts to concentrate research and implementation work solely on Low or Medium Income Countries (LMIC), a significant portion of donor funds still ends up in the hands of agencies and institutions in high-income countries, giving them control over the finances. The fund allocation analysis revealed that less than 2% of humanitarian funding is directed towards local NGOs. Highlighting a significant bias towards US firms, approximately 80% of USAID’s contracts and grants are awarded to them. Similarly, a substantial percentage of NIH Fogarty grants (70%) are claimed by United States and HIC institutions. The Wellcome Trust’s international grant portfolio predominantly (73%) supports activities based in the United Kingdom.
Top biotech companies hinder Africa’s self-production of COVID-19 vaccine.
The evaluation further emphasized that LMIC organizations face limited opportunities for innovation due to the high-income country donors’ tendency to not only impose their own agenda but also micromanage the funded projects. Tobin Ekaette, a consultant and public health physician from the Institute of viral haemorrhagic fevers and emerging pathogens in Nigeria, expressed that the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a newfound dedication among scientists in the country to delve deep into the development of therapeutic vaccines and various products within Nigeria’s borders. Top biotech companies have effectively hindered the self-production of the COVID-19 vaccine in African countries, as stated in the report, citing their disapproval of such initiatives.
Misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine may have ramifications on the acceptance of other vaccinations, specialists warn. In an effort to implement the initial distribution of the human papillomavirus vaccine, Nigeria faces an unsettling discovery: studies indicate that a considerable portion of the intended recipients (women) are willing to undergo testing but resistant to receiving the vaccines themselves. According to specialists, there is a connection between the prevalence of false information regarding sterilization amidst the pandemic. On the other hand, the outcome could be uniform, particularly in an endemic region affected by a virus like Lassa fever. The need for vaccines is already well-acknowledged among the public, emphasized Ekaetta, a member of the vaccine trial team.
NCDC & NIMR, granted N10.5 billion & N9.3 billion, as budget allocations.
Furthermore, the unprecedentedly rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, achieved within approximately twelve months since the emergence of a mysterious respiratory illness in China, hasn’t caused universal concern surrounding the producers of these vaccinations. In 2021, the Ministry of Health officially announced that Nigeria was actively investigating opportunities to produce licensed COVID-19 vaccines through collaborations with reputable institutions and discussions has commenced with a local producer. However, it was noted that despite this declaration, the only laboratory responsible for manufacturing human vaccines in Nigeria has remained non-operational for three decades since its closure in 1991.
Also, in the past three years, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) have been granted a total of N10.5 billion and N9.3 billion, respectively, as budget allocations. However, a mere N7.6 million has been designated towards utilizing biotechnology in the fight against COVID-19. The Vaccine Development Mega Research Project granted a total of N1.25bn to four research clusters in 2022. Their objective is to create a COVID-19 DNA Vaccine Candidate known as SJN3T CorVac, which is scheduled for preclinical trials in 2023.
It is about time for the black community to develop their own vaccines.
By the year 2028, Nigerian eligibility for financial support from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) will expire. This is primarily due to the exponential growth of the population, which increases by approximately 2.4% each year, combined with a relatively low Gross Domestic Product. With a year-on-year increase of 51%, the nation might heavily depend on external funding from international philanthropists, as the internal tax remittance won’t suffice to support a domestic vaccine production plan. Rose Matugi, the vaccination officer in Jalingo, Taraba state, expressed her belief that it is about time for the black community to develop their own vaccines, despite a substantial portion of the population already being vaccinated and others actively pursuing the jab.