Meet Onyema Ogbuagu, Nigerian trained doctor who helped Pfizer develop COVID-19 vaccine


Meet Onyema Eberechukwu Ogbuagu one of the Brains Behind the New Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic has plagued the most of 2020 and it’s such a relief to know that it might be coming to an end.

Earlier this month, Pfizer, an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation, announced its first vaccine against COVID-19.

Pfizer, which teamed up with BioNTech to develop the vaccine, said could prevent more than 90 percent of people from getting infected.

One of the doctors leading the Pfizer research for a COVID-19 vaccine is Onyema Eberechukwu Ogbuagu with years of medical research experience.

Onyema is one of the twin sons of Chibuzo Ogbuagu, a former vice-chancellor of Abia State University, Uturu (ABSU), and a former Secretary to Abia State Government (SSG), and Stella Ogbuagu, a professor of sociology who was best graduating student of the 1974 class at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). Ogbuagu's twin brother is an engineer.
Onyema Ogbuagu's parents

Onyema studied medicine at the University of Calabar, Cross River state, in 2003. 

After graduation, he interned at the Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, before proceeding to the US.

He got his board certification from AB of Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease in 2012.

Ogbuagu is an associate professor of medicine in the clinician-educator track and director of the HIV clinical trials programme of the Yale AIDS programme at the Yale School of Medicine.

He is Yale principal investigator on multiple investigational therapeutic and preventative clinical trials for COVID-19, including remdesivir (now FDA approved), leronlimab and remdesivir and tocilizumab combination therapy, as well as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial.
In a tweet on Monday, the US embassy commended the Nigerian-born doctor for helping “the drug company Pfizer develop the first effective COVID-19 vaccine in the United States”.

“Nigerians contribute to the world in so many ways. Our hats off to Dr. Onyema Ogbuagbu at Yale who helped develop a COVID-19 vaccine,” the tweet reads.

The US embassy, in its recognition of Onyema’s effort, described it as an “incredible contribution to ending this world-wide pandemic”.

Also celebrating the doctor, the Abia state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, said Onyema is "one of many Abians who keep making us state proud as a people."

The governor added that his achievement has shown the "capacity and competence of our people to sacrificially serve humanity, save her from all that which ravages her and produce goods and services that make life more comfortable and convenient to live."

In a chat with ACB News, Dr Ogbuagu, spoke about the development and distribution of the vaccine.

Concerning how the Pharmaceutical was able to reach that high level of efficacy and what that means for the process moving forward, Onyema said,

"I think those of us involved in the trials are really super excited by the results that were really quite unexpected… we quite expected that the vaccines should at least have more that 50% efficacy, which is what the FDA set as bar. 

"But it’s just so heart warming that the vaccines have been too effective, and it’s great because having a very effective vaccine would help us achieve the so called immunity which would mean that if we have enough people who receive the vaccine and are protected against the virus, this would really be the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

"Obviously there are insufficient doses for everyone like has been mentioned already and we’re hoping that as we start to phase in, the vaccine and also to have more doses in the first quarte of 2021 that that might mean really, the pandemic ending.

Onyema had earlier also spoken on some misconceptions about the vaccine, saying its efficacy is real.

Pfizer and BioNTech had announced that the first vaccine they would be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of 2020, and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.

“Let’s dispel some rumors especially because misinformation about COVID-19 may and can cost lives. Enough already!” he wrote on Twitter.

“Vaccine efficacy results are real. They were not delayed to hurt or help any politician. The Pfizer vaccine doesn’t contain the SARS CoV-2 virus or parts of it!

“No nefarious or sinister plan to inject people with a labeling code. The mRNA vaccine is not integrated into recipients genome. No fetal tissue is used for the mRNA vaccine. And No!…researchers such as myself are not part of any conspiracies. We just want to apply science to improve patient outcomes and even better, to prevent disease.

“We can only work our way out of this pandemic through effective vaccines especially because it is difficult to achieve optimal mask wearing and physical distancing to end the pandemic. Think of how vaccines have made deadly diseases either go away (small pox) or become relatively rare (such as measles).

“When the “COVID” vaccine becomes available, lets roll up our sleeves and lets end this thing! Another challenge would be equitable distribution of vaccines.

“High vs. low/middle income countries, and even in developed nations, to ensure that vulnerable and underserved populations, disproportionally affected by the pandemic are proportionally reached! Now is time for strategic distribution plans at global, national and community level.”

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