Nigeria is working to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a televised interview on Thursday, as the country battles growing cases of the virus.
Health experts say Nigeria needs to triple its vaccination drive from just over 100,000 doses a day to meet its target of inoculating more than half its population by the end of next year.
The West African country has been exploring options to acquire or purchase vaccines through the COVAX facility to enable it inoculate at least 70% of its population.
"We are working very hard with the ministry of health to develop vaccines," Buhari said on state television. "We shouldn't make noise about it until we succeed."
Speaking to CNN on Friday, Nigeria's minister of state for health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, said the country was working to establish a vaccine-manufacturing hub within two or three years. But this would depend on the availability of funds, he stated.
"Vaccine manufacturing is not done in a jiffy. Yesterday (Thursday), we had engagements with some of our international development partners and funding partners towards developing our vaccine manufacturing hub. It's a joint venture project between the federal government and an indigenous pharmaceutical company," Mamora told CNN.
The senior health official added: "The timeline is a function of how soon we get funding. We have to source funds through international agencies, as well as technological support. So, we are looking at the next two to three years."
Nigeria, which has not tested widely for Covid-19, has recorded 246,195 cases and 3,066 deaths since the pandemic started.
In 2017, Nigeria's cabinet approved a plan to produce basic vaccines with pharmaceutical firm May & Baker Nigeria via a joint venture. It's unclear whether the project took off.
Buhari said his administration is encouraging Nigerians to get inoculated. Fewer than 4% of adults in Africa's most populous nation of over 200 million have been fully vaccinated.
Mamora says vaccine hesitancy was still a problem among Nigerians. "We desire to double or triple our vaccination rate ... to be able to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating not less than 70% of our population, but we are still dealing with vaccine hesitancy," he said, adding, "We have a large stock of vaccines now."