Former President Dr Goodluck Jonathan has charged members of the West African Society of Pharmacology (WASP) to spearhead the research for the production of local vaccines to contain epidemics that are endemic in the sub-region.
Dr Jonathan noted that the world has been experiencing outbreaks of viral diseases, some of which are more prevalent in West Africa and stressed that pharmacologists and scientists in related disciplines must give their best to ensure that such peculiar health challenges are adequately tackled.
The former President spoke in Abuja on Saturday at a programme of the West African Society of Pharmacology where he was invested as the Grand Patron of the Society.
He said: “Let me, therefore, use this opportunity to task and challenge pharmacological scientists in this sub-region to invest more energy in finding solutions to medical challenges, especially the ones that are peculiar to us.
“The sub-region is in dire need of essential Covid-19 vaccines, following the imperative of tracking and halting its mutating variants. We are now accustomed to hearing of the outbreak of new viral diseases, some of which are more prevalent in our part of the world.
“One of such diseases is the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)which has killed thousands in West Africa. In 2014 an outbreak in Guinea spread to many West African countries including Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. My administration had the good fortune of containing the spread through a clinical contact tracing mechanism which significantly reduced the fatality rate in the country.”
Dr Jonathan further observed that Ghana recently reported its first two cases of the deadly Marburg virus, which unfortunately claimed the lives of both victims, adding that the sub-region needs to do more to contain the spread of such outbreaks.
Emphasising that some of these diseases are endemic in West Africa, Dr Jonathan further said: “One example is sickle cell disease (SCD). The management of sickle cell disease is still a big problem for us in Africa. Sickle cell anaemia contributes to the equivalent of 5% of deaths of under-five-year-old children on the African continent. Sadly, more than 9% of such deaths occur in West Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (W.H.O).
“In the case of Nigeria, a recent WHO report indicated that 24 per cent of the Nigerian population are carriers of the mutant gene while the prevalence of sickle-cell anaemia is about 20 per 1, 000 births.
“Another report further indicated that three countries harbour about 90 per cent of the world’s SCD population. These countries are Nigeria, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo where the disease is said to affect up to two per cent of the population. Such a high prevalence rate and significant number affecting the workforce would affect productivity.
“The West African Society of Pharmacology and other related institutions like the universities must do something about that to change such unenviable health records. We must be able to develop the technology for the production of the essential vaccines for the prevention and management of these diseases.
“The economic consequences of poor health are obvious. Our pharmacologists, scientists and related disciplines are therefore challenged to give their best to ensure that our peculiar health situation is adequately addressed.”
The former President praised WASP for its efforts, stressing that the job of a pharmacologist is very crucial to human existence and well-being. He added that “the science of pharmacology entails much more than is usually conceded to it and we all are its direct beneficiaries for which we have good reasons to show more appreciation and interest in the works of pharmacologists.”
“ I am glad to note that the West African Society for Pharmacology is made up of members from different professional backgrounds such as medical doctors, pharmacists, molecular biologists, veterinarians, biochemists, chemists, botanists, toxicologists, and biological scientists. “Pharmacology is often described as a bridge science because it incorporates knowledge and skills from several basic science disciplines. They are people with special skills because they can translate such knowledge into the rational development of therapeutics. As a result of their multidisciplinary training, pharmacologists can offer a unique perspective on solving drug, hormone and chemical-related problems.
“In this era, interdisciplinary collaboration is the gold standard in scientific research. In medicine, drug development and administration, many breakthroughs have been recorded as a result of such collaboration. Pharmacology is at the centre of such viable partnerships in medicine because it encourages collaboration among many medical and allied professionals.”