The President of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria( AMLSN), Dr Godswill Okara has said there is an urgent need for Nigeria to focus more on vaccine laboratories in order to protect its citizens from sudden future outbreak of diseases.
Okara who recently returned from an international medical laboratory scientists’ conference in Taipei, Taiwan, said amid the success Nigeria recorded in containing the Ebola virus, more needed to be done to revamp laboratories and put additional resources into vaccines research.
According to Okara,"Nigeria's success in rapidly diagnosing the Ebola virus disease and its ability to halt the spread of the outbreak has received tremendous applause from the over 2000 delegates at this congress. They have also commended Nigeria's offer to train 15 health-care professionals including medical laboratory scientists in the effective response, diagnosis and control measures for the disease in the three affected West African countries.
"Our Asian colleagues narrated their experience in the diagnosis and control of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in their region sometime ago, especially the delay involved before they succeeded in the diagnostic characterisation and control of the causative viral pathogen.”
He said: "Nigeria should indeed consider the response to the Ebola virus disease outbreak as a wake-up call. We should learn the salient lessons that our Nigerian health professionals have the capacity and capabilities to perform effectively if given the necessary resources to work.
"It was possible to achieve the success, because government promptly released the funds needed to give the desired rapid intervention to investigate, accurately diagnose and manage all the infected persons, as well as prevent further contact with those infected persons."
He maintained that "this is the time to focus attention on the reactivation of the vaccine production laboratory in Nigeria to produce vaccine for the eradication of Ebola virus disease. The high fatality rate associated with the infection calls for nothing but urgent effort at its eradication through vaccination.
"If the government gives the commitment and funds, it is achievable. Nigerian medical laboratory scientists produced the smallpox vaccine used for the control and eradication of smallpox in the entire West African region. Yellow fever and Rabbis vaccines were produced in large quantities in Nigeria by medical laboratory scientists in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Okara also stated that “it is sad that Nigeria now prefers to import Yellow fever and Rabbis vaccines from abroad. Our facilities have been allowed to degenerate because of poor funding and gross mismanagement. Vaccine production is entirely a medical laboratory procedure which medical laboratory scientists possess the knowledge, skill and technical dexterity to produce.
"Inter-professional bickering in the health sector, and the persistent penchant by some professionals in the health sector to head and control every imaginable thing in the sector was the cause of the collapse of vaccine production in Nigeria. Square pegs must be put in square holes, if we must make progress in Nigeria.”
Paul Obi in Abuja
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