Nigeria is one of over 100 countries across the world signed up for Solidarity Trial, a global effort to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
While speaking during an interview on Channels TV on Sunday, May 3, 2020, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, said Nigeria is part of the trial which involves evaluating several therapeutic and vaccine candidates.
He said, “Ultimately, even when you do the Phase 1 and Phase 2 trial of a vaccine, once it starts getting to actually trying out in humans, you need people across different parts of the world to take some of it and to show that it works and causes no harm.
“So, we’re part of a much broader global effort in different research objectives, in different aspects of the response.”
The coronavirus disease has infected over 3.5 million people across the world, killing nearly 250,000, as of the time of this report.
Vaccine development for COVID-19 has been a contentious topic since the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
Two French doctors who crudely suggested that a vaccine test undergoing clinical trials in Europe be carried out on Africans because “they don’t protect themselves” was met with widespread outrage in April.
Conspiracy theorists have also used the issue of vaccine development to dismiss the severity of the coronavirus and alleged several sinister motives behind the devastating outbreak that has interrupted social and economic activities across the world.
The Solidarity Trial was launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners to compare treatment options against standard of care, and assess their relative effectiveness against COVID-19.
“The pressure COVID-19 puts on health systems means that WHO considered the need for speed and scale in the trial.
“While randomised clinical trials normally take years to design and conduct, the Solidarity Trial will reduce the time taken by 80%,” the organisation said.
The WHO said adult COVID-19 patients admitted to participant hospitals can join the study after they have consented to it well aware of possible risks and benefits.
Nigeria to soon deploy remdesivir for treatment
Ihekweazu also announced during his Sunday interview that plans are underway to deploy remdesivir, a drug that has recently been found to be effective in the treatment of the coronavirus.
The United State’s Food and Drug Administration last week approved the emergency use of the experimental drug after preliminary results showed that it shortened the time to recovery by 31%, or about four days on average, for hospitalised COVID-19 patients in the U.S.
Ihekweazu said Nigeria has also used the drug in clinical trials and established that it produces benefits for COVID-19 patients.
“What we now need to do is gain access to this drug. It’s a difficult process at the moment but we’ve started those conversations to enable access to Nigerians.
“We will speak to NAFDAC to speed up the regulatory process so that we can make this drug accessible and available to Nigerians,” he said.