The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Academy of Science and former Chairman, Lagos chapter of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Dr Doyin Odubanjo, has faulted Nigeria’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
He identified politics and lack of engagement of local experts as reasons why Nigeria has taken a backseat in Coronavirus vaccine research.
Speaking in an interview with SaharaReporters, Odubanjo urged the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to partner universities and research institutes to develop a vaccine for Coronavirus.
The public health expert stressed that Nigeria does not lack the knowledge of how to create vaccines nor does the country lack experts, who could work on vaccines.
Also speaking on the issue, a professor of Virology, Oyewale Tomori, said no institution in Nigeria was currently equipped to come up with any human vaccine.
Tomori, in an interview with SaharaReporters, lamented that many of the country’s research institutes were in a deplorable state.
He said, “They (research centres and universities) operate on the ever-dwindling annual budget which is irregularly disbursed and often spent with opaque accountability.
“It is not a matter of NCDC not being equipped; NCDC cannot be taken out of the Nigerian environment, an environment that is toxic and unfriendly for the development and practises of science and use of research findings for orderly and sustainable socio-economic development.
“We need the right and enabling environment for science, research and technology to contribute to the development of Nigeria.”
On the way forward, Odubanjo said, “What the NCDC can do is to support other groups or commission it to begin work on vaccine research. It has to be done in collaboration with other agencies. They should involve universities and research centres. Vaccine trials are going all over the world and when you look at them, you find out that those moves are not purely government-led; they are coming largely from universities and research institutes.
“They have to work in conjunction with those who have the capacity and mandate to do that kind of work.
“NCDC would have to collaborate with universities and research institutes, perhaps even the pharmaceutical industry to do that. Our universities have a huge role to play. Up until now, we have been largely politically led in the response and that needs to change significantly in all states.
“All states have government universities they can work with and all of them need to use the relevant departments and faculties of those universities to help design and lead the response in those states and not leave it to politicians. We have professors and senior researchers in public health whose job is to research disease outbreak and how to contain them.
“If we would allow the expert to participate more and perhaps drive the response, a lot more would change. It would be multidisciplinary, as you need your economists, psychologists and sociologists, who would tell you that for these particular people and the culture, this might be our best way of community mobilization. But, if you sit down and just give executive orders not allowing it to be driven by science and expertise, we would just be beating around the bush.
“What we need now are our local experts. The government must look at those universities in their states and invite relevant experts in public health; let the experts be the ones to drive the whole strategy.”
Tomori while speaking further, added, “For the lockdown to be effective and achieve set objectives, there is a role for both the government and the citizens. The government must test, test, and test, so we know the true magnitude of the problem. We must effectively trace all the contacts and professionally manage the cases.
“For the general population, we must strictly and religiously comply with the prevailing guidelines – wash hands with soap and water, maintain safe physical distance, wear face mask etc. Finally, if the government is to fulfil its promise to protect life and preserve livelihood, it must do a much better job of distributing the palliatives against hunger and pain, equitably.”