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Why Nigeria must develop COVID-19 Local Vaccines

Global daily statistics on Coronavirus infectious have show that the virus will not be going away soon, which places heavy responsibilities on countries to develop its local vaccines in response to the pandemic

Madagascar, a country of less thirty million citizens and six times smaller than Nigeria had in realization of this fact developped and distributed to other African countries.

Since the announcement of the February 25th Coronavirus Italian index case in Nigeria, Federal government had set aside additional NGN100 billion intervention fund in healthcare loans said to be for pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners intending to expand/build capacity

Federal government had said it will identify few key local pharmaceutical companies that will be granted funding facilities to support the procurement of raw materials and equipment required to boost local drug production.

Federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria, also set aside the sum of N1 trillion in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors.

The early development of cure for the Coronavirus disease is seen as necessary for citizens protection from the ravaging virus

A recent finding by Oxfam, indicates that about 12,000 persons may die daily by the end of 2020, unless a cure is found

According to Oxfam, “as many as 12,000 people could die per day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to COVID-19, potentially more than could die from the disease, warned Oxfam in a new briefing published today.

“The global observed daily mortality rate for COVID-19 reached its highest recorded point in April 2020 at just over 10,000 deaths per day.

‘The Hunger Virus,’ reveals how 121 million more people could be pushed to the brink of starvation this year as a result of the social and economic fallout from the pandemic including through mass unemployment, disruption to food production and supplies, and declining aid.

Health experts are also worried that the federal government allocation to the health sector has been on the decline, despite the global pandemic.

For instance, government had srt aside the sum of N44.5b consisting of N381bn for recurrent expenditure and N59.9bn for capital expenditure in thr 2020 budget before the advent of the pandemic.
But, in the revised budget, the basic healthcare care Provision fund was cut by 43% from 44.5 billion to N25.6 billion. The budget for the procurement of outbreak (emergency) response vaccine, devices and operational cost is N1,028,363,525.

Maurice Iwu, a Professor of Pharmacognosy and Chairman of the Imo State Taskforce on COVID-19, who spoke to BDSunday on government efforts develop local vaccines, said Federal government was collaborating with local reseachers to find local drugs for the treatment of the virus

” Efforts are being made by the federal government through various intervention funds to support local scientists

“These efforts, he said ‘will yield positive results with time”

Iwu who is also the Chief Officer (CEO) of Bioresources Development Group (BDG), however, sees lack of confidence in the Locally produced drugs by Nigerian Scientists as a major factor militating against advancement.

Iwu had developed the IHP Detox tea, which is currently undergoing testing the feasibility and acceptability of an emergency trial in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.

The testing is to satify its safety and effectiveness in reducing mortality and viral load in patients with COVID-19.

Federal government in a recent development, said the country development and validated an indigenous RNA-Swift test kilts for the identification of SAR-CoV-2, the causative agent for the COVID-19.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, said the RNA- Swift test kits has an amazing precision for the detection of the SAR-CoV-2 .

He announced that consultations are on with the African Development Bank for the funding of the African wide testing program for COVID-19 and the establishment of the RNA- Swift production in Nigeria

The test kits, he said will be readily available at a price that places it ahead of competitors in terms of sensitivity and affordability

“Five million farmers are expected to be tested with the kits, from the first 10million kits to be produced

On partnership with local researchers, the independent researchers in Nigeria have publicly claimed to have developed a local solutions to treat COVID-19, but said they have been repeatedly denied audience by the federal government.

But, late May, the federal ministry of health finally held a virtual meeting with a number of these researchers. Only three were selected and sent to the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) for further investigation.

Patrick Dakum, CEO, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) noted that the discovery and availability of a vaccine for COVID-19 is only good for the future, but for Nigeria to be able to get the pandemic under control, finding and treating cases is key.

He said Nigeria must look inward for local solutions by funding its scientists and researchers in addition to international partnerships.

The risk communication officer at the NCDC, Emeka Oguanuo said the local drugs are still under scrutiny. He also said Nigeria is not just waiting until a vaccine is developed, but the country is part of the WHO global solidarity trials to test the efficacy of certain drugs to treat COVID-19.

Early this month, the minister of health, Osagie Ehanire, said the “so-called” Madagascar herb is grown in Nigeria. He said preliminary results of the analysis of the herbal cure found that it as the same as Artemisia annua, also known as ‘sweet annie’ which is grown in the NIPRID research farm in Abuja.

Ehanire said the Artemisia annua which is a component of malarial treatment medicine was imported by government some years back.

The minister said further research on the efficacy of the plant to treat COVID-19 will be conducted when a grant is approved.

Ehanire said the specie of the plant available in the country had a very high concentration of Artemisinin, an active ingredient for anti-malaria.

He further said NIPRID is trying to develop its own production of ACT and the process is still under supervision. The minister said the type in Nigeria showed that it has a very high concentration of Artemisia annua when tested, which is the active ingredient for anti-malaria.

Ehanire added that the Madagascar herb not only contain in large quantity of Artemisia annua. He said other properties that was also found in the product was the bark of a tree and other things which are impurities that came with it.
The Director, Information, media and public relations Olujimi Oyetomi, federal ministry of health said one of major constraint stalling the development of local solutions to treat COVID-19 is the human trial stage. He recalled the three potential herbs, selected from 17 claimants are still undergoing investigation by the relevant agencies, NIPRD and NAFDAC , but said finding volunteers willing to sign an MoU not to institute any legal action if anything goes wrong, is a problem.

He noted that every acclaimed cure could be a potential poison and that is why the process is taking a long time to ensure that solutions are safe.

Oyetomi added that the ministry of health not only want to develop a solution that is safe, but one that cures perfectly and just some of the symptoms of COVID-19.

He said the federal ministry of health is still expecting report from NIPRID on the three local herbs, he said the only report received so far, is the one on Madagascar of which preliminary analysis shows that the basic ingredients in the solution is in Nigeria.

Oyetomi also said the Madagascar herb is not effective in treating covid-19, hence government may no longer consider it.

“Madagascar has imposed a total lockdown due to resurgence in cases despite claiming that they have a cure”, he said.

Oyetomi further said funding is another constraint. He noted that no special fund was committed for research in local solutions for the treatment of COVID-19, apart form the yearly allocation given to the agencies.



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