Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday said Nigerian scientists are currently engaged in ground-breaking research towards finding a Nigeria-made vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.
Osinbajo made the disclosure during a facility tour of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, Abuja.
He noted that due to the diligent work of Nigeria’s health workers and experts across the nation, the country has expanded its public health response capabilities and is making progress in the public health sector since after its first COVID-19 case last year.
“Last week I was in briefing meetings, listening to the landmark research of a team of professors from LUTH who are investigating the efficacy of some of the drugs in the therapeutic management of Covid-19 and are researching its prophylactic use,” the vice president said.
“A few days later I was listening to Professor Christian Happi and his team who have produced a ground-breaking COVID-19 rapid test, but more remarkably, are developing a Nigerian anti-Covid-19 vaccine,” he said.
Osinbajo, who was accompanied by the Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire, Minister of State for Health Olorunnimbe Mamora, and the NCDC Director-General Chikwe Ihekweazu, noted that with the increasing number of COVID cases being recorded, the country has a critical situation on its hands currently.
He said the nation has activated nearly 120 laboratories nationwide – 70 of them public laboratories – and has significantly ramped up testing and case management capacity.
“We have expanded the footprint of our sovereign public health response capabilities especially at the subnational level and in areas where previously such capabilities did not exist. Not so long ago, test samples had to be flown out of the country for examination. This is no longer the case as we now have the capacity to process samples internally,” he said.
Osinbajo observed that such an achievement should not be taken for granted, “but one that we are determined to consolidate on”.
“This very facility is a testament to the strides that we have made during a short period,” he said of the NCDC Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa. “While we are not yet where we want to be as a nation, we are most certainly not where we were at the onset of the pandemic.”
The vice president applauded Nigeria’s public and private healthcare specialists and workers in the line of duty for ensuring the safety, cure and prevention of majority of Nigerians from the COVID-19 virus, sometimes under extremely challenging circumstances.
“Thousands of health professionals have been working tirelessly on Nigeria’s COVID-19 public health response. From the people across sample collection sites and laboratories ensuring testing, and our dedicated physicians, nurses and other health workers in treatment centres providing care to the sick, to our medical scientists that are conducting research on various aspects of this plague. We also have State Public Health Teams working hard to ensure data reporting and analysis, contact tracing, risk communications and so much more.
“Within this period, you have all worked extremely hard to activate testing in all states of our country, you have increased our knowledge of this disease, grown our capacity to swiftly identify those infected by the plague and render aid to them,” Osinbajo said.
The vice president also gave special commendation to NCDC, saying, “The excellent work I have witnessed today at the NCDC Reference Laboratory is one of the best examples of how this pandemic has produced at least one silver lining, a showcasing of the remarkable skills and talents of our public health experts, here at NCDC and across the health sector.”
He said it was fair to say that the staff of the NCDC and all those engaged in Nigeria’s COVID-19 public health response represent public service at its very best in Nigeria, and are an example of the type of public sector the country needs.
“So, to all staff of the NCDC and Public Health Teams across the states, thank you for the excellent work that you do. I want you all to know that your country is extremely proud of you. Incredible as it may sound, you are indeed making history every single day,” the vice president said.
He urged Nigerians to continue to comply with COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical measures and to comply with the advice of scientists and healthcare professionals and to continue to take every measure to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
“We will come through this period of our history as we have come through all previous seasons of adversity – by working together, protecting each other, believing in each other and committing to seeing better days ahead for our nation,” he said.
During the tour of the facility in Gaduwa, the Federal Capital Territory, Osinbajo was taken round the laboratories and also interacted with a select group of staff. He paid tribute to the memory of the late NCDC staff, Uche Njoku, who died in the course of service.