– As Babalola advocates evidence-based research to manage disease
Experts and stakeholders in the health sector have reiterated the urgent need for collaboration among healthcare researchers and professionals, stressing that this is the most effective way to advance the nation’s health system.
The experts made the call at the recent Media Week on COVID-19, jointly organised by the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) with the theme “COVID-19: Facts, Myths and Way Forward.”
Speaking at the gathering, held via zoom, the stakeholders in separate remarks noted that collaboration will help to overcome COVID-19 and other challenges in the health sector.
In his remarks at the event, the President, NAPharm, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, emphasised that team work will help health professionals achieve better results in their endeavours.
“Everybody achieves more with team work. It is by embracing networking that we pharmacists can attain greater heights in our profession. In the area of funding, we need to engage the people in the private sector. If we can convince people in the private sector, they will get funds to optimise research institutes,”Adelusi-Adeluyi said.
Speaking during a panel discussion on “The role of professionals, universities and research institutes in COVID-19”, the Director General, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Dr Obi Adigwe, called on relevant individuals and organistatons in the private sector to provide grants for pharmaceutical research and development in the country.
He stressed that collaboration is very important among researchers, for them to be able make significant discoveries that will lift the health sector, especially the pharmaceutical sub-sector. The NIPRD boss called for researchers to involve in what he called “out of the box collaboration.”
Adigwe lamented that many Nigerian senior citizens are yet to understand the importance of research and development, noting that lack of understanding of R& D has resulted in lack of funding which he said is the major challenge NIPRD has been grappling with since he joined the institution.
He also reiterated the need for pharmacists to be involved in policy making in the health sector, stressing that there will be no one to argue the cause of Pharmacy, if pharmacists are not involved in policy making in the health sector.
Adigwe also noted that, despite the noticeable disconnection between manufacturers and researchers in the past, he is working assiduously to bridge the gap, adding that the connection between the two parties is already yielding good result, as some products from NIPRD have already been launched into the market.
Also speaking at the event, the former Chief Executive Officer, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Professor Abdusalam Nasidi, who was also one of the panelists, decried Nigeria and Africa’s dependence on foreign donors for the COVID-19 vaccines, saying the continent must urgently look in the direction of vaccine production.
Nasidi, who commended the NCDC for efficient management of the pandemic, said Nigeria has, so far, fared well but there is room for improvement.
The former NCDC CEO however warned Nigerians against disregard for COVID-19 vaccines and safety protocols, saying the pandemic is a deadly one that everybody must take serious.
He said: “Those who don’t believe in COVID-19 do so at their peril. Don’t worry about the origin of the virus but worry about your survival. Whatever vaccine that is available, please take it. You will have yourself to blame at the long run, if you refuse to take the available vaccine. The vaccines are safe to use.”
While revealing that many countries have started experiencing the third wave of the pandemic, Nasidi urged the government and other stakeholders in the health sector to work hard towards ensuring that Nigeria does not join the list.
Another member of the panel, Pharm. Folashade Lawal, in her remarks, pointed out that pharmacists can educate the general public by providing evidence-based information.
Lawal, who is the managing director, Victory Drugs Limited, said: “Pharmacists have the advantage of reaching out to the general public at all times because we are very close to the people. We can do a lot better that we have done. COVID-19 is a common enemy that we all need to fight together, but we need to be more transparent.
“Collaboration and synergy among professionals is key. We can come together; we can empower patients by providing useful information to them. From my experience, I can attest that healthcare professionals are willing to work together. We need to go back to the drawing board to see how we can synergise and work together for the benefit of patients.”
On his part, Dr Mike Omotosho, another panelist, lamented that health issues are often being politicised in Nigeria, saying this should not be.
Omotosho who is the president, Hepatitis Zero Nigeria Commission, therefore called for a concerted effort and strong political will to transform the nation’s health sector.
“We need to develop a database for the health sector. We need to make health insurance available to everybody. We need to invest massively in the health sector. We also need to develop national planning on how to tackle and respond to pandemics,” Omotosho said.
Also speaking, the moderator of the panel discussion, Pharm. Olumide Akintayo, a former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), urged practitioners in the health sector to avoid all acts that can hinder the development of the sector.
He also charged healthcare workers to begin to synergise and build a formidable frontier through collaboration.
Meanwhile, the Vice Chancellor, Chrisland University, Abeokuta, Professor Chinedum Babalola, had earlier called on healthcare professionals and researchers in Nigeria to embark on evidence-based research that will ensure efficient management of COVID-19 in the country.
In her address titled “The role of professionals, universities and research institute in COVID-19”, Babalola, who was the keynote speaker at the NAPharm event, pointed out that COVID-19 is a pandemic of misinformation, noting that deep knowledge of the virus and infection process is the only measure that will help to prevent and contain the spread.
Sharing from her experience at a conference held by African leaders on 12 and 13 April, Babalola said, so far, only 2 per cent of vaccine clinical trials have taken place in Africa and less than 1 per cent of Africans have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the professor, Africa imports 99 per cent of vaccines and produces only 1 per cent as of April, 2021, stressing that there is an urgent need to invest in universities and research institutes.
While highlighting the roles of professionals and researchers in managing COVID-19 and remedy for the pandemic, Babalola called for evaluation of literature to sift validated information from the tons of junk circulating, especially on social media. She added that there is need for production of factual literature on the pandemic.
Babalola also pointed out that there is need for professionals to show public example in observing COVID-19 protocols, and as well promoting good policies of the government, even as she urged professionals to keep advising the government on possible way forward.
Babalola further urged universities and research institutes to identify research gaps and agenda as they emerge.
“Build new infrastructures, and update old ones for the COVID-19 pandemic. Build critical human capacity for cutting-edge research about the pandemic and also encourage knowledge sharing on the pandemic”, the VC said.