Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says the COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to improve on public health infrastructure in Nigeria.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Thursday in Abuja, said the vice-president held a virtual meeting with top government officials and some Nigerian scientists working on public health dimensions of the pandemic.
The vice-president said the pandemic also offered a platform for the training of required experts, adding that governments should be doing more in the area of funding.
The interaction which focused on Nigeria’s response and the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, featured presentations by one of Nigeria’s leading virologists, Prof. Oyewale Tomori.
Others who made presentations were Prof. Philip Onyebujoh, Infectious Diseases Scientist, Prof. Christian Happi, Director, African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), Redeemer’s University.
On the government side of the interaction were Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, Dr Aliyu Sani, Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, and Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
“We are at a point where we can gain tremendously as a people from this pandemic and a lot of what has been said will really help in putting this in perspective for us as government.
“So, we can actually go out and resolve many of these problems and improve the environment for ourselves and for the coming generations in particular.
“This has been an inspiring intervention and discussion.
“I say inspiring because it is evident that our experts — whether they are directly engaged or not — are also paying attention not just to an unfolding public health problem but also the very many opportunities that this problem provides for us, the many opportunities to ramp up our public health capacities in various ways,” Osinbajo said.
He said there was need to focus on the opportunities and make the best of this situation.
According to him, stakeholders we must be talking now about local vaccine production, improving the training of laboratory scientists, and generally improving our capacity to respond in various ways.
“We must really focus on the opportunities that this period really gives us.
“What I have noticed is that unless something like this happens, we are very frequently relaxed and just hope for the best.
“I think we are in a position now where we can do a lot. In fact, there is the opportunity to do more in terms of government funding.
“So, I think this is a major responsibility for us, the government, at this time, to really look at how we can, at least, do much better in terms of preparing young men and women for the challenges ahead.
“This point was also made about the quality of laboratory scientists and the quality of medical personnel and paramedics and all that,” he said.
Earlier in his presentation, Tomori emphasised the need for authorities across different levels to leverage the opportunities created by the COVID-19 pandemic to overhaul the entirety of the country’s health system.
He said that Nigeria could not let the pandemic go without starting the production of vaccines.
On his part, Onyebujoh advocated for improved coordination, especially in the states in the areas of identification, isolation and clinical management of infected persons, for the country to effectively manage the current rate of transmission. He added that the acquisition of sufficient doses of vaccines would also go a long way in containing the transmission rate.
The scholar called on authorities to put in place effective strategies to manage the storage, distribution and the actual vaccination of persons.
Contributing, Ehanire said that the country was expecting about 10 million doses of the COVID-19 viral vector vaccine.
According to him, the 10 million doses are aside the 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine being expected in the country.
He said that both types of the vaccine would be received in March 2021. Ehanire said that the Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with other stakeholders, had already put in place mechanisms for the management of the vaccines.
He said the Federal Government was encouraging the use of Ivermectin while expecting more research done on the prophylactic use of the medication.
Ihekweazu disclosed that in ramping up testing across the country, the NCDC had adopted rapid testing.
He said that rapid testing was deployed for the last orientation programme of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
The director-general said the NCDC, in collaboration with stakeholders, was working on building the capacity of medical personnel across the country as part of measures adopted by the Federal Government to boost the country’s infectious disease response capabilities.