Nigeria’s missed COVID-19 vaccine invention


Early in November, in reaction to the Pfizer announcement of its successful human trials, President Muhammadu Buhari said the development of one would be a “major milestone” in medicine.

Urged the world to be united to facilitate “the equitable access and distribution of these vaccines to protect people.” He had previously said that “only a people’s vaccine with equality and solidarity at its core can protect all of humanity and get our societies safely running again.”

It was an interesting thought given that Nigerians are often at the very professional tables and laboratories abroad where these breakthroughs are being recorded.

So, why couldn’t Nigeria lead the chase for one in the first place, instead of waiting at the borders and embassies for a handout? Here is why:
Last week, as you may have heard, an Abuja-Kaduna train broke down.

It was the same week the Federal Government announced a N30bn plan to build two roads from Sokoto and Jigawa states to Niger Republic.
It was also the same week we learned that although during Buhari’s visit to the US in April 2018 Nigeria was begging for swift delivery of her order of 12 Super Tucano fighter jets, the aircraft may never be delivered because our four air force runways are inadequate.

 In February 2018, Buhari had hurriedly paid $496m (not $493m) from the Excess Crude Account for the jets without legislative approval, claiming they were urgently needed to tackle the insecurity in the country.

It was also the week that the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, described the North as having become the worst place in the country to live, explaining that the security had “completely collapsed.”

He told the fourth quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council in Abuja that bandits were overrunning the North, noting how they now move freely in villages and markets, displaying their AK-47 rifles completely undisturbed by the security agencies.

And as the trial in absentia continued of former Chairman, Pension Reform Task Force Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, we also learned about how up to N14bn in pension money was methodically stolen.

Rouqayyah Ibrahim, a principal investigation officer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s Pension Fraud Team, told the tribunal how the team found that Steve Oronsaye, the former Head of Service, operated an incredible 66 illegal bank accounts.

During all of this in the past several months, Nigerian scientists and doctors responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in admirable ways.  First, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research announced the development of a $25, 40-minute test to help ramp up testing in difficult circumstances and for a vast population.

And then last month, Nigerian health investment firm, Flying Doctors, boosted testing by commencing the use of mobile booths in eight of the country’s COVID-19 worst-hit states.  The innovative walk-in and drive-through method separates the sample collector from those being tested.

It is a system which eliminates infections of the people conducting the tests, in addition to saving time and Personal Protective Equipment.


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