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NCDC seeks stronger collaboration for health security in Nigeria

By Abujah Racheal

The Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has called for stronger collaboration with  pharmaceutical industries as part of measures to strengthen the country’s health security.

Ihekweazu made the call in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja.

He said that the NCDC had earlier indicated interest for intensified stronger collaboration with pharmaceutical manufacturers at the third Public Lecture of the Board of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria.

He said that he highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on national development and health care system at the forum.

According to him,  measures are  needed to collaborate with operators in the pharmaceutical industry to co-create a stronger future for health security in the country.

Ihekweazu recalled that Nigeria experienced several disease outbreaks in the last five years including large outbreaks of cerebrospinal meningitis, Lassa fever and the COVID-19 pandemic.

He, however, said that focus should not be on what happened but on what was done  with what happened.

He said that the NCDC made some progress in establishing the National Public Health Emergency Operations Centre and National Reference Laboratory in 2017 and subsequent establishment of similar structures across all states in Nigeria.

According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the fastest and most wide-reaching response to a global health emergency in human history.

He said that the pandemic enabled rapid mobilisation of resources to scale public health infrastructures across Nigeria.

Ihekweazi also said that the NCDC made enormous progress over time including the digitisation of the national disease surveillance architecture across all states.

He said that emergency operations centres were established in more that 30 states in Nigeria while molecular laboratories were also established in every state.

According to him, standard infectious disease treatment centres were also established by the NCDC.

Ihekweazu acknowledged that there were challenges at the beginning of the pandemic where there were calls to use unproven cures for management of cases.

He said: “During the calls to use unproven methods to treat COVID-19 cases, we heard very little from the professional science organisations to dispel these misconceptions and explain the principles of clinical trials especially how decisions are made about therapeutic interventions.

“Given the credibility challenge of government in our country, the voices of professionals such as the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) becomes critical in such situations.

“If we collectively understand and communicate how therapeutics work and its importance to the populace, we stand a chance to protect the integrity of the underlying science that is the foundation upon which our professions are built.

“Thereby re-gaining the credibility of the profession we hold so dear.”

Ihekweazu, who cited India as a powerhouse in vaccine manufacturing, said that in building stronger pharmaceutical capacity in Nigeria, we must recognise that our opportunities were mutually dependent on each other.

He called for collectively to drive the health security in Nigeria.

He also urged  PSN members to work with the Federal Government to attract international opportunities for the development of Nigeria’s vaccine, diagnostics and therapeutics manufacturing capacity to co-create a stronger future for health security. (NAN)