We’ve capacity, expertise, to produce COVID-19 vaccine-Med Lab scientists insist

…allege subtle phasing out of members

By Hassan Zaggi

The Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), has said that its members have the capacity, expertise and experience to produce  locally made vaccine for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases for  Nigerians.

The National President of the Association, Professor James Garba Damen, stated this at a media briefing in Abuja, weekend.

He, however, said that the federal government should be responsive enough to lead the way.

The briefing was the climax of the 15th Annual Public Lecture series of the Association which was held at Chida International Hotel, Abuja.

The theme for the public health lecture was: Strategic Medical Laboratory Capacity Building for Pandemic Response: Lessons Learnt from COVID-19 Response in Nigeria.

While saying that what Nigeria currently needs is local vaccine production with local strain, Prof. Damen, reiterated that: “All citizens should be well vaccinated, we have no capacity and political will to continue to rely on imported vaccine from international community.”

He said that the challenges hindering Nigeria from producing locally made vaccines were multifaceted.

Some of them, according to him, included: “Inconsistent government policies; the overriding of national interests by personal interests; some prefer that Nigeria continue to import vaccines through translucent procurement processes; the time bomb obstacle placed in the way of doing business in Nigeria; lack of respect for integrity, disdain of quality; penchant for cutting corners; government bureaucracy and inconsistent government policy and poor basic infrastructure- power, water etc.”

Earlier while speaking at the public lecture, the AMLSN President called on the federal government  to urgently put in place processes to reactivate the WHO accredited laboratory in Yaba, Lagos and employ qualified medical laboratory scientists to commence local vaccine production for SARS-COV-2 and other infectious diseases.

This, according to him,  “will definitely help solve the problem of vaccine shortage, improve trust in uptake of COVID-19 vaccine among citizens and greatly improve the country’s GDP.

“Our members have the experience, expertise and capacity and are ever ready to support government in this area.”

 He further recalled that, “Medical laboratory scientists have  continue to play vital roles since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, from identifying the SARS –COV2 as the causative agent of acute respiratory syndrome in Wuhan China in December 2019 for supporting local efforts in Nigeria and around the world through preparation of viral transport medium, collection of clinical specimen, diagnosing suspected cases through timely and effective testing, monitoring the response through re-testing and sequencing of viral strains development of vaccines, validation of testing protocols and testing kits and providing advisories to guide government policies on containment of the pandemic.

“International best practices adopt a multidisciplinary approach in the fight against pandemic and disease outbreaks.

“This approach presents a comprehensive, robust and effective mechanism in the containment of pandemics.

“Therefore, the need for strategic engagement of various disciplines in the health care system is essential in containing pandemics.”

Prof. lamented that: “It is however, sad that in Nigeria, our profession is not always given the full recognition it deserves by the government and some partners, especially when making appointments into strategic positions and in developing key health documents/policies.

“As the world has now shifted attention to vaccine production for the control of COVID-19, it is pertinent to let this audience know that medical laboratory scientists are experts in vaccine production.

“It will be recalled that in the 60’s medical laboratory scientists were producing vaccine for Small Pox, Yellow Fever and other infectious diseases at the WHO accredited laboratory in Yaba Lagos.

“Unfortunately, the country was unable to maintain the laboratory and it is today moribund.”

The Association, however, lamented what they alleged to be “subtle and systemic phasing out of the medical laboratory scientists in most tertiary healthcare centres in Nigeria, as seen in the refusal of most Chief Medical Directors (CMDs) to employ these cadre commensurate with needs analysis, adding that while other professional cadres in the hospital are enjoying consistent employment and replacement of members, Medical Laboratory Scientists have been denied employment in various tertiary health institutions.”

He regretted that some hospital authorities have resorted to employing and using non medical laboratory scientists in their medical laboratories, thereby aiding and abating quackery.

This, he said, was “a grand plan to weaken the medical laboratory capacity to respond to epidemic and pandemics and shortchange Nigerians.”

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