Dr Haruna Mshelia, Chairman, House Committee on COVID-19, has reaffirmed the committee’s commitment to seek more funds to boost research work on vaccine at the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos State.
Mshelia, who made the remarks during a tour of the institute in Lagos on Thursday, expressed confidence that NIMR had what it takes to develop a vaccine for both Lassa Fever and COVID-19.
He expressed disappointment that the country had failed to come up with a potent lassa fever vaccine after the outbreak some decades ago.
“The House of Representatives would push for funding, provided NIMR is ready to come up with Lassa fever vaccine that can be supplied across Sub-Saharan Africa.
“We had an interaction with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and the various agencies after the NIMR D-G made a presentation that we included in the budget to ensure that the laboratories are equipped.
“Along the line, during our discussion, we discovered that there was a void, particularly with lassa fever. It has been around since 1969 and has no vaccine up till now.
“We think a very big institute like NIMR should be in the forefront of seeking solution to lassa fever,” he said.
According to him, the committee has instructed the management of the institute to come up with a proposal to be presented before the speaker for consideration in the next budget.
The House Committee chairman added that some equipment had already been ordered to upgrade NIMR labs so they can continue with their COVID-19 research through the COVID-19 intervention funds.
The chairman, however, commended the PTF on COVID-19 and other health agencies, noting that the decline in COVID-19 cases showed they had done excellently well.
“I am also happy with the level of awareness among Nigerians who are still adhering to social distancing and other non- pharmaceutical interventions measures.
“I urge Nigerians to be patient; very soon, vaccine will be available for everybody and we shall all return to our normal way of life,” he said.
Prof. Babatunde Salako, the Director- General of NIMR, said that a dedicated fund should be made available for the institute to carry out vaccine research.
According to him, the institute cannot come up with a vaccine without dedicated funds to bring it to reality.
“There should be a dedicated fund somewhere, if we have such fund, I can tell you that within the next few years, we will come up with something.
“The staff, manpower and expertise are there. All we just need is a dedicated fund to equip and speed up the process,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that during the tour, the committee visited NIMR’s E-Library, Animal House, Sequencing Suites, Tissue Culture Lab, Central Research Lab, Researchers Suites and Centre for Human Virology and Genomics. (NAN)