The Minister for Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr. Monica Musenero has revealed that the rats meant to facilitate the development of a locally made Covid-19 vaccine cost the government Shs8 million because they are high on demand.
According to Musenero, the rats, which are to be procured from the United States of America (USA) and reportedly could not be found anywhere in Africa, are genetically engineered.
The minister made the remarks while addressing the select committee investigating allegations raised by Ntungamo Municipality MP Yona Musinguzi indicating that the Minister misused Shs31 billion meant to facilitate the development of a local vaccine.
She revealed that the decision to purchase the mice from America was arrived at after the first order placed in China was turned down since the mice are on high demand.
Musenero further revealed that the mice are special and very hard to find on the market because they are highly modified and engineered to facilitate the Covid vaccine development process.
“They are very high technology animals. Actually, we have even struggled to get them. It is in our proposal with your support to put up a facility because our scientists are able to work and create these mice here,” Musenero noted.
“Not only are they expensive but they are also not easy to get. We paid the first company after six months and they returned our funds. We had to source again. They said we can’t give you because of the very high demand,” she said.
Prof Enock Matovu, who is charged with the responsibility of overseeing the processes meant to procure and secure the special mice, also said the high cost is due to the patent rights that come with the purchase of the mice.
Lawmakers were also informed that each of the mice to be procured would serve a purpose equivalent to what 200 ordinary rats would in the development of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Prof Matovu also indicated that the mice are not susceptible to the deadly Coronavirus disease and will, therefore, be effective in the development process of a local Covid-19 vaccine.