Updates on Nigerian Inventors: Celebrating Onyema Ogbuagbu, Developer of Covid-19 Vaccine II- Prof. MK Othman
Updates on Nigerian Inventors: Celebrating Onyema Ogbuagbu, Developer of Covid-19 Vaccine II
By Prof M. K. Othman
Covid-19 Pandemic, an awful, destructive, and dreadful plague wrecking the lives and global economy, yet, it is a golden opportunity for some to make money and name. Every calamity provides an opportunity for people to provide a solution, often with a handsome reward. For Covid-19, the reward attracted a cutthroat rat race among pharmaceutical conglomerates in search of a viable, acceptable, accessible, and affordable vaccine against the pandemic. Remember, we were told that there are no specific vaccines or medicines for Covid-19. It is the world’s most pervasive infectious diseases worse than HIV/AIDS and Ebola. Thus, the Covid-19 is bringing deep sorrow to the generality, authorities of different countries are having sleepiness night to end the Pandemic. The few giant Pharmaceutical companies are cashing on the opportunity to develop vaccines for the Covid-19. One such company, Pfizer is supporting Dr. Onyema Ogbuagbu led-team to develop a Covid-19 Vaccine with all the aforementioned qualities. Who is Dr. Onyema? What is the efficacy of the vaccine developed by Dr. Onyema? These were the questions posed in the first part of this article last week.
Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu is a product of the academic system in Nigeria, one of the twin sons of Profs. Chibuzo and Stella Ogbuagbu. Prof Chibuze is a former Vice-Chancellor of Abia State University while Prof. Stella Ogbuagu is a renowned professor of sociology. Thus, Dr. Onyema’s parents are both Nigerian academics. Although Onyema was born in New Haven in Connecticut, he returned to Nigeria for his education. His educational career started in Nigeria where he studied medicine at the University of Calabar, Cross River state, and graduated in 2003. After graduation, he started an internship at the Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Nigeria, and then went back to the U.S where he also interned at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (Elmhurst).
Dr. Onyema secured the US Board Certification to work as Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease in 2012. With dint of hard work, Onyema became a fellow of infectious diseases and subsequently rose to the height of an associate professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut. He worked there for five years focusing on finding a cure for HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Onyema has led several types of research in the US and Africa. He worked in the faculty of the human resources for health program in Rwanda where he mentored medical residents and junior colleagues in clinical research projects, which focused on addressing important infectious diseases-related problems (particularly HIV/AIDS and antimicrobial resistance). Similarly, he had worked at the Liberia College of Physicians and Surgeons (LCPS).
Today, Dr. Onyema is leading the team of researchers as principal investigator of Pfizer supported research to develop the world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine.
In an interview, Dr. Onyema exclusively granted to ABC News, he was quoted saying “the Pfizer vaccine will help people achieve immunity, and that it will be the beginning of the end of the pandemic”. He further said “The vaccine would help us achieve immunity. This could be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. Preparations are made both on the government end and the distribution network, including Pfizer who is working to have the vaccine stored at low temperature,” he added “While we have been celebrating a lot about having an effective vaccine and frankly, we have run out of emojis. A lot of work needs to be done to reassure the community and I hope I am doing that also which is why I am on the program. So we are telling the public that even though the vaccines have proceeded at an unprecedented phase, it is being done carefully, thoughtfully and with the right amount of oversight so that vaccines receive emergency use authorization by the FDA and it passes through all the safety check to show that the efficacy numbers are real and that should assure the public.” https://youtu.be/5JAbZynVqek
Onyeama’s team was able to develop the Covid-19 vaccine, which has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns were observed. Pfizer was quoted as saying it would be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of 2020, and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. According to a BBC report, Mr. Onyeama said that the efficacy of the drug is as real as it was announced, noting that “it should be noted that when administered, the result is 94% effective among adults that are 65 years old.”
With Dr. Onyeama’s breakthrough, Nigeria must celebrate one of her sons who is raising the green-white-green flag higher and making all of us proud of being Nigerians. He is not alone, there are many Nigerians in diaspora as well as residing in the country who are daily achieving great things in technological innovation, but we seem to be unconcerned as a nation. It is high time that the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology should wake up to support these achievements for the benefit of the country.