Nigeria ignores local research into COVID-19 possible cures, awaits vaccines from Europe, US


Amidst the approval of COVID-19 vaccines by some countries, stakeholders in the health sector seem not to be impressed by Nigeria’s efforts in finding local cure for the virus

During the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, a lot of herbal medicine practitioners laid claim to curing COVID-19 symptoms.

The Federal Government called those, who claimed to be able to cure the symptoms of the virus, to submit their proposals in a bid to find a potent local cure for the virus.

As the country continues to battle the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, efforts to get local cure may have been jettisoned for ready-made vaccines from the developed countries.

COVID-19 herbal remedies committee

The Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 Herbal Remedies, Prof. Mosto Onuoha, said nothing much had been achieved by the panel that was set up on September 15, 2020 by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.

Other experts, who are members of the committee set up to find local cure for COVID-19, are Prof. Oyewale Tomori, Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor, Prof. Obinna Onwukewe and Prof. Babatunde Salako.

Tomori is a Professor of Virology and former Vice-Chancellor of the Redeemer’s University; Agbonlahor is a Professor of Medical Laboratory Science and a former Vice-Chancellor of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma; Onwujekwe is a Professor of Health Economics and Policy; while Salako is the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research.

Onuoha said in an interview with our correspondent, “I don’t want to say the Federal Government is not serious about finding a local cure for the virus. I don’t think there is any government that won’t wish they can find a cure, but whether it is being pursued vigorously or not, I can’t say.

“Like the committee, we met and discussed with those who laid claims to finding a cure for COVID-19. We made submissions to the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and submitted our report. It has been many months now; I don’t know anything beyond that.

“Many of these things our people do were recommended for clinical testing and some of them for licensing by NAFDAC. Many of the herbal medicines are immunity boosters – something that will make one resist the virus; that was the feeling of the experts in our committee. A lot of them have prospects, but the next level is on the test that needs to be done. But just like what was brought from Madagascar, our government rightly said they had to be subjected to clinical tests before giving them to Nigerians.”

Experts advocate increased funding for local researchers

Onuoha, who is also the President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, advocated increased funding for local researchers.

He said, “We need to put our money where our mouth is. As scientists, we will like to see funds go into some of these things. Even, the government has established the Institute for Traditional Medicine Research. But I’m sure that if you give them money, there is no doubt that many of our traditional people have things they have been doing; all we need to do is to look into them.

“After all, that is what the Chinese people did and they are dominating the market with their Ginseng tea and other remedies. Many of their herbal medicines were originally local products and then science was brought into it. A lot of money will be required for that, but we don’t seem to put money in the right places.”

Also, the Chairman, National Technical Committee on COVID-19, Tomori, in an interview with our correspondent, lamented Nigeria’s poor attitude to research.

He said he might not be able to talk about the efforts of the Federal Government in finding a local cure to COVID-19, but would not be surprised if no progress had been made so far on it.

Tomori stated, “There is a separate committee working on that and I am not able to provide an appropriate and complete answer. But knowing Nigeria’s attitude to issues of research, I believe most of the progress on home-based COVID-19 cure may not have gone beyond meetings, talks, plans and resolutions with little implementation.

“Anything that does not yield instant gratification does not attract funding from our government, and research takes time to come into fruition.”

The virologist noted that sustained preparedness and providing support at all times for efficient and effective disease surveillance would help the country to prepare for future outbreaks.

“We cannot afford to take a holiday from disease surveillance. Eternal vigilance is the price for disease prevention, detection and control,” he added.

‘FG paying lip service to alternative cure for COVID-19’

The President of the Nigerian Association of Physicians of Natural Medicine, Prof. Cyril Omisande, told our correspondent that the Federal Government was not serious about finding a local cure for COVID-19 in the country.

Omisande said, “I wrote a memo to the Federal Government in May on how to explore the field of alternative medicine in the fight against COVID-19. They just called me to thank me. They asked if they could bring patients to me and I said yes; they also asked if I had treated patients with COVID-19 symptoms. To date, they have yet to get back to me for further discussion.

“Our government is not sincere when it comes to finding a cure for COVID-19 in Nigeria. The country should learn from India; the recovery rate of people infected with the virus in India is high and the death rate there is low.”

FG has not abandoned local cure for COVID-19, says NIMR DG

Salako said the department of traditional and alternative medicine in the Federal Ministry of Health is collating herbal medicines for COVID-19.

He stated, “A lot of the herbal medicine practitioners are relating with them but we have looked at the COVID-19 organic from Madagascar; then we looked at another medicine from Pax Herbal, which we are still studying. We just looked at safety first, and there is a computer modelling to determine whether the drugs have any opportunity to be used against COVID-19. I believe the Pax Herbal medication has that computer modelling, but we have not given it to human beings.

“So, it will be wrong for us to say the Federal Government has abandoned local cure for COVID-19. At least, we (NIMR) are an agency of the Federal Government and we are working on it, but the majority of the herbal medicine practitioners are dealing with the department of traditional and alternative medicine in the Federal Ministry of Health.”

He added that the agency was looking at the different strains of the virus in the country.

No cure for COVID-19 yet – Lagos commissioner

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, on Monday, said the state had yet to find a cure for COVID-19.

Abayomi, at a briefing in Alausa, said trials on some drugs were ongoing in a bid to find a local cure for the virus.

He said, “We are doing trials on convalescent plasma. We haven’t really found if there is any drug that is particularly effective against COVID-19. We do, however, manage the complications of COVID-19 better now and we’ve learnt how to interrupt the way the virus causes body damage. But killing the virus itself, we haven’t found a medication that can do that.

“By convalescent plasma, it means people who have recovered from COVID-19 donate their blood. It is the white blood that we are looking for and the white blood of someone that has recovered from the virus contains some antibodies that help the patient recover from coronavirus. We take those white antibodies from people who have recovered and give them to other patients.”


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