President of the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm), Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, has led stakeholders in the Nigerian healthcare sector to charge community pharmacists to advance their practice by closing gaps in COVID-19 vaccination, stressing that the pandemic has provided an opportunity for them to prepare better for future crises.
The one-time minister of health made the call while speaking at the opening ceremony of the recent 41st Annual National Conference of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), tagged “Ajumose Eko 2022” and held at Festival Hotel, Festac, Lagos State.
Others who spoke at the conference, which had the theme, “Never Waste a Crisis: Community Pharmacists Learning for Future Preparedness,” included President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Prof. Cyril Usifoh; Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib; and Member, Federal House of Representatives, representing Okiti Pupa/Irele Federal Constituency, Ondo State, Hon. Gboluga Ikengboju.
Adelusi-Adeluyi, who lauded the decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the NPHCDA to designate community pharmacies as approved vaccination centres for COVID-19 vaccination, stressed that pharmacists must make the most of the opportunity they have to be better practitioners.
Speaking in the same vein, Dr Faisal Shuaib commended the leaderships of the PSN and the ACPN for their tenacity, which, he said, resulted in the signing of a memorandum of partnership with the ACPN last year and the national flag off of COVID-19 vaccination at community pharmacies in May 2022, adding that the partnership is strategic for achieving the goal of primary healthcare development in the country.
Shuaib noted that the bulk of the country’s healthcare challenges is at the community level where many lack proper information, thereby making them more vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infections.
He added that misinformation is one of the key factors responsible for the low uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country, saying just over 26 million people, which represent 23.4 per cent of the eligible population, have been fully vaccinated,.
“Currently, our data shows that 26,127,761 eligible persons have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in Nigeria, having received the second dose of the vaccine. The number of fully vaccinated persons represents 23.4 per cent of the 111,176,503 eligible population targeted for full vaccination against COVID-19 in Nigeria, he said.
Shuaib, who was represented by the South-West Zonal Director of NPHCDA, Dr Adefunke Adesope, emphasised that the COVID-19 crisis provides the country with opportunities to improve routine immunisation, while also paving way for more health professionals to be fully integrated into PHC service delivery.
He tasked the ACPN to mobilise its members to rapidly increase the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines in communities by leveraging their influence, saying NPHCDA will continue to provide technical support and policy guidance to the association.
In his speech at the conference, PSN President, Prof. Usifoh, said he was impressed with the level of organisation of the conference by the ACPN, noting that the association had indeed made a number of giant strides in recent years.
Extolling the crucial roles community pharmacists play in every society, Usifoh said pharmacy practice has been one of the essential resources deployed to address most of the gaps in the fight against Covid-19, adding that the challenge however is that the system is not making most of what pharmacists can offer.
According to him, “In recent times, emergencies have strengthened community pharmacists to take on novel and innovative roles; therefore, willingly or otherwise, the roles of community pharmacists have expanded globally to include vaccination, designing of infection prevention protocols in the community, among others.”
Usifoh specifically commended community pharmacists for being at the forefront of providing direct healthcare to patients during the pandemic.
He said: “Not only have they played their traditional role of delivering medications to patients, but they also performed additional duties regarding patient education and triaging of patients to reduce the load on hospitals, as well as screening for diseases and promoting clear treatment concepts regarding this disease.”
In his own contribution, Registrar of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), Pharm. Babasheu Ahmed, who equally commended the theme of the conference, assured that the PCN was working round the clock to ensure that the various challenges confronting the ACPN would be speedily resolved.
Also speaking, Pharm. Wale Oladigbolu, national chairman, ACPN, implored the government to include pharmacists in all policies and programmes that have to do with the health of the citizenry.
He said urgent steps that can be taken in this direction are inclusion of pharmacists as primary healthcare providers in the National Health Insurance Scheme and signing the new Pharmacy Bill into law. “This will go a long way to engender a healthier nation,” he said.
Oladigbolu also stated that despite the challenges associated with the supply chain system for medicines distribution in Nigeria, the association started a supply chain platform that interconnects all pharmaceutical entities in the country.
“We now have bespoke inventory control software for community pharmacists,” he said.
The number one community pharmacist in the country further mentioned the support ACPN received from New Heights Pharmaceutical, saying it had assisted the association to produce documentation kits for community pharmacists.
He said: “The kit consisted of a prescription pad, a referral pad and booklet on the interpretation of laboratory parameters. These have been distributed to all community pharmacists across the country.”
On his part, Chairman of the occasion and Member, Federal House of Representatives, Pharm. (Hon) Gboluga Ikengboju, expressed the Legislature’s readiness to support the ACPN in performing its role towards a better society.
In his words: “We are going to support community pharmacists to improve the healthcare delivery system and to engage more in advanced services. We are going to support you in promoting adequate training and technological support.
“We will push to see government commitment to the Abuja Agreement of 15 per cent of budgetary allocation to the healthcare system. We are also going to push for every community pharmacist to be paid for providing essential services through the NHIS.”
The highlights of the event were the presentation of awards to the following personalities: Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State; His Royal Majesty, Oba Gbolahan Abdulwasiu Lawal; Late Chief Lateef Jakande, a posthumous award as a Living Avatar; Sir Theophilus Adebowale Omotosho, chairman, Bond Group; Sen. Remi Okunrinboye; Pharm. Mrs Olubamwo Adeosun; Mr Olatunji Bello, among many others.
The conference had in attendance several other personages from the health care sector and other walks of life, including Oba (Pharm.) Ajibola Ademola Julius, Olusin of Ijara-Isin, Kwara State, who was represented by Chief Abdulrafiu Haruna, Baale of Apapa; Prof. Moji Adeyeye, DG, NAFDAC, who was represented by Dr Monica Eimunjeze, NAFDAC director of registration and regulatory affairs; Prof. Akin Abayomi, commissioner for health, Lagos State, represented by Pharm. Oyebisi Omolambe, director of Pharmacy, Lagos State Ministry Of Health; Dr UNO Uwaga, former president, PSN; Pharm. Anthony Aikhmien, former president, PSN; Pharm. Azubike Okwor, former president, PSN; Pharm. Olumide Akintayo, former president, PSN.
Others were Pharm. Deji Osinoiki, former national chairman, ACPN; Pharm. (Alh) Femi Adebayo, former national chairman, ACPN; Pharm. Bode Ogunjemiyo, national chairman, AHAPN; Prof. Cecilia Igwilo; Dr Joel Adagadzu, chairman, BOF; Prof Adepoju Bello; Pharm. Kunle Tometi; Pharm. Teresa Pounds; Dr Ejiro Foyibo, deputy president, South, PSN, among others.