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Breaking: COVID-19 has shown that without proper funding research, the world will leave Nigeria behind

Adesegun Fatusi, a Professor of Community Medicine and Public Health, is also the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo. In this interview with DAYO OJERINDE, he speaks on Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19, vaccination and other health issues

What is your assessment of the fight against COVID-19 so far in Nigeria?

The efforts are, understandably waning, because it has become a battle that has drawn longer than expected. However, it is not a time to be tired but a time to strengthen our efforts, given the evolving dynamics of the infection.

What are the lessons you think Nigeria should have learnt from the fight against the pandemic?

The greatest lessons are; preparedness is key to effectively fighting infections; without adequate investment in science, research, and technology, the world will increasingly leave us behind as the vaccine development against COVID-19 is showing. There is so much to do in terms of changing the behaviour of the Nigerian population and without such a change, progress in our health situation will be minimal.

What do you think about the travel bans being imposed on Nigeria and some other African countries in the wake of the Omicron variant?

It has been appropriately titled ‘Travel apartheid’ in the international health cycle. Yet, it is understandable because each country holds its interest paramount and, in that respect, wants to prevent the importation of new variants into their population.

From the NCDC weekly report, testing has been low in many states. How will this contribute to the community transmission of the virus?

Without testing, it is impossible to detect asymptotic cases which will still be able to transmit the infection. Thus, a low testing rate will contribute to increased community transmission.

The effort to produce locally made vaccine have been at the lowest ebb. What do you think is the problem?

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Nigeria has not and is not investing significantly in science and research as well as the health sector. We previously had a Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory that was successfully producing vaccines like yellow fever but we were not optimally maintaining it and it was eventually closed down in 1991. The amount of money available for research in Nigeria is grossly inadequate. In that scenario, you cannot get optimal research outputs and impact from the universities and research institutions

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