…As Adigwe, Nasidi, others harp on collaboration among researchers
The Vice-Chancellor, Chrisland University, Abeokuta, Professor Chinedum Babalola, has called on professionals and researchers in Nigeria to embark on evidence-based research that will enhance efficient management of COVID-19 in the country.
Babalola made this remark on Wednesday in her address at the ongoing Media Week on COVID-19, jointly organised by Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm) and Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE). The programme, themed: “COVID-19: Facts, Myths and Way Forward”, commenced on Monday, 12 April, 2021 and will run till Saturday, 17 April, 2021.
The Vice-Chancellor lamented the impact of COVID-19 on stakeholders in the health sector, adding that the pandemic has brought hardship upon the world, as several trillion of dollars and many lives have been lost so far to the pandemic.
Speaking on the topic: “The roles of professionals, research institutes and universities in COVID-19”, she asserted that COVID-19 is a pandemic that has brought misinformation, which can only be contained through the right knowledge of the virus.
Sharing from her experience at a conference recently organised by African leaders, Babalola said so far, only 2 percent of vaccine clinical trials has taken place in Africa, while less than 1 percent of Africans have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the erudite scholar, Africa imported 99 percent of vaccines and produced only 1 percent as at April, 2021. Against this backdrop, she reiterated the urgent need to invest in universities and research institutes.
Highlighting the roles of professionals and researchers in COVID-19 management, she called for evaluation of literatures in order to sift valid information from fake news in circulation, especially on social media. She also tasked stakeholders on examplary lifestyle in adhering to COVID-19 protocols, while admonishing government on the way forward .
The varsity don mentioned the need for Nigerian scientists to explore the abundant natural plants in the country, rich in antiviral and immunomodulatory properties against the virus; while urging universities and research institutes leaders to hunt and apply for research grants targeted at expanding the frontiers of knowledge about the pandemic.
“We need to form a coalition. All professionals need to work harmoniously, in order to achieve evidence-based research to overcome the pandemic”, the VC said.
Meanwhile, the Director General, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Dr Obi Adigwe, urged relevant individuals and stakeholders in the private sector to assist in providing grants for pharmaceutical research and development in the country.
Adigwe, who was one of the panelists at the programme, bemoaned limited knowledge of R&D among Nigerian senior citizens, which has brought about lack of funding for the purpose, a major challenge NIPRD has been grappling with since he joined the institution.
The NIPRD boss stressed the importance of collaboration among researchers across the country, adding that there is need for researchers to get involve in what he called “out of the box collaboration”. He also reiterated the need for pharmacists to be involved in policy making in the health sector, in order for them not to be left out in the scheme of things.
Adigwe also noted that though there was disconnection between manufacturers and researchers in the past, but he is currently working assiduously to bridge the gap, as some collaborations are already yielding good results, with some NIPRD’s products already launched into the market.
Also speaking at the event, the former Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Professor Abdusalam Nasidi, who was also one of the panelists, decried Africa’s dependent on foreign donors for the COVID-19 vaccines, saying the continent must urgently look in the direction of vaccine production.
Professor Nasidi, who commended the NCDC for efficient management of the pandemic said, Nigeria has so far fared well in the management of the pandemic, but there is room for improvement. He however warned Nigerians against disregard for COVID-19 vaccines, saying the pandemic is a delicate one that everybody must take serious.
“Those who don’t believe in COVID-19 do so at their own 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”, Nasidi stated.
The former NCDC boss noted that many countries have started experiencing the third wave of the pandemic, thus he urged the government and all stakeholders in the health sector to work hard to ensure that Nigeria doesn’t experience the third wave of the pandemic.
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 said “Pharmacists stand at 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 than we have done. COVID-19 is a common enemy that we all need to fight together, but we need to be more transparent”, she maintained.
In his contribution, Dr Mike Omotosho, a member of the panel lamented that health issue is being politicised in Nigeria, which ought not to be. He said health matters should not be treated with sentiments but with utmost seriousness. Omotosho, who is the president, Hepatitis Zero Nigerian Commission, therefore called for a concerted efforts and strong political will to transform the nation’s health sector.
“We need to develop data base for 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 pandemic”, he quipped.
The moderator of the panel discussion, Pharm. Olumide Akintayo, former president, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), urged practitioners in the health sector to eshew unhealthy politics and put the interest of patients first.
The President, NAPharm, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, also emphasised teamwork among professionals and researchers in the country. “Everybody achieve more in teamwork. It is by networking that we pharmacists can attain greater heights in our profession. In the area of funding, we need to engage people in the private sector for funding”, he said.