The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria says the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are safe for use in Nigeria.
The pharmacy body also warned the public against relying on Ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19.
PSN President, Sam Ohuabunwa said this while speaking to journalists during a press briefing held for the ‘Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccines’ in Lagos.
Represented by the PSN National Publicity Secretary, Ijeoma Okey-Ewurum, Ohuabunwa said the PSN can authoritatively confirm the efficacy and safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
Ohuabunwa noted that vaccination should be seen as public health good and should be delivered to all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
He called for the inclusion of pharmacists in the vaccination exercise, adding that the place of pharmacists who are the custodian of drugs was fundamental.
Community pharmacies, he appealed, should be considered as vaccination centres to ensure vaccine reaches a large number of Nigerians within the shortest period.
The PSN president stated further that the participation of pharmacists must be secured to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccination exercise and the generation of data for much-needed local vaccine research.
“With our avowed responsibility to diligently nest medication safety of Nigerians, we make bold to say that the vaccines are safe and should be accepted when they become available to us.
“Vaccination has remained a veritable tool for disease prevention, control, and possible elimination.
“For example, in 2020, Nigeria eradicated polio through effective vaccination. We should be proud that some Nigerians are involved in the development of the vaccines to save humanity from this dreaded disease,” he said.
Speaking on the dangers posed by ivermectin, the PSN president said that there is no standardised or accurate dosing for ivermectin in the management of COVID-19.
He appealed for caution to be exercised in its use, noting that every drug is a poison that could cause under-reported adverse effects, especially when used for new indications with different dosing regimens.
He said, “Ivermectin is a drug that has been around, but what we are worried about is the protocol that is being proposed for even prophylaxis in COVID-19.
“In fact, the one that is being forwarded as curative is beyond what human beings can tolerate as of today.
“That is why pharmacists have continued to scream at every point because we are the custodians of drugs, and we understand the chemistry of these drugs. We know what they do.
“We are also looking at the long-term effect because as of today, there is no finished line. It is being taunted because nothing has been established.
“Some trials showed that the recovery period was shorter, but it has not been reproduced here and no extensive study has been done. Also, COVID-19 is a viral infection which if you treat, will take two weeks, if you don’t treat it, it takes a fortnight.”
Continuing, he said, “If the immune system is working, people can recover on their own. Until we do our study in our environment, we don’t support people going to take ivermectin.
“Right now, it is being recommended that people should take it every week or two weeks. There is no agreement as of today.
“The first instance is that this medication is proposed for a very short time therapy. You take it for two days in a year or two years. This is now what people take every week or two.
“That is why pharmacists are insisting that we must have empirical evidence before we can say yes to this.”
The pharmacist also lamented that despite the availability of funds and infrastructure, Nigeria can’t produce vaccines due to the absence of effective pharmacy law in the country.
He called for the filling up of the funding gap in vaccine capacity building, enforcement of COVID-19 protocols during vaccination, strengthening of the healthcare system and infrastructure, improved budget allocation, and better management of COVID-19 palliatives in all 36 states.
Ohuabunwa noted that the COVID-19 experience, which made countries like China ban the exportation of essential medicines, should provoke the country to resolve to make Nigeria a hub for active pharmaceutical ingredients and the revamping of abandoned vaccine plants.
“COVID-19 remains an emerging infectious disease. We must arise to make sure that another pandemic does not take us unawares.
“A multi-sectoral approach should be key to mobilising stakeholders towards sustainable solutions that will put Nigeria on the path of medicine security, economic recovery, and development.”