The Federal Government has charged alternative and traditional medicine practitioners to work hard towards discovering a local solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, stated this at an event to mark African Traditional Medicine Day, yesterday, in Abuja.
He said the pandemic warrants looking inwards and considering local production of medicines to enhance national security and attain Universal Health Coverage.
He said the Federal Ministry of Health, in a bid to boost local content, has tasked the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to scale up their activities for a homegrown solution to the pandemic.
This came as Chief Executive Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Dr Mark Suzman, faulted continued inequality in vaccines distribution between high and low income countries.
He described the trend as morally wrong in a public health level and short sighted at the global economic level because it disrupts long-term economic recovery. He said, currently, 80 per cent of all vaccines are being distributed to high and upper middle-income countries, while only one per cent goes to low-income countries.
Speaking during a virtual interview with journalists on the 5th Annual Goalkeepers Report of the BMGF, Suzman called for aggressive expansion of vaccine availability globally, especially across Africa. He observed that the current vaccination rate on the continent is around 1.8 per cent.
“That is morally wrong. A key message is for rapid expansion of vaccine availability that needs to start with the COVAX initiative we’ve been supportive of. There may be some questions on that, though it has clearly not been able to provide the volume of vaccines individually hoped for,” he said.
He recalled that COVAX was set up over a year ago by the Foundation and a number of governments, to provide equitable global access for every country to vaccinate at least 20 per cent of their population of healthcare workers and high-risk groups.
He noted with dismay that this did not happen because high-income countries ended up hoarding vaccines and not allowing supplies to be distributed as they should.
Suzman argued that the upcoming UN General Assembly provides a real opportunity to increase funding distribution and resourcing, and boost efforts by many countries to acquire vaccine directly through mediums like the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP).
The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), meanwhile, kicked off a two-week capacity building programme in Lagos, yesterday.
The training seeks to endorse the first cohort of 40 participants drawn from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), state-level ministries of health, the Nigeria Port Health Services, and the Nigerian military in Public Health Emergency Management Professional Certification (PHEM PC).
The first of its kind in Nigeria, the training, adapted from US-CDC Atlanta, equips emergency managers, incident managers, state epidemiologists, first responders, watch managers, and other public health experts with the knowledge, competencies and skill sets they need to respond to public health emergencies.
During the intensive programme, participants will receive specialised training in crisis and emergency risk communication as well as public health emergency management functions and operations.