US embassy celebrates Nigerian doctor who helped Pfizer develop COVID-19 vaccine

The US embassy in Nigeria has celebrated Onyema Ogbuagbu, a Nigerian-born researcher and medical doctor, for his role in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer and BioNTech had announced that the first vaccine they developed against COVID-19 could prevent more than 90 percent of people from getting infected.

The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised. 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.

Leading Pfizer research for a COVID-19 vaccine is Ogbuagu with years of medical research experience.

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 Ogbuagu’s effort, described it as an “incredible contribution to ending this world-wide pandemic”.

Ogbuagu is one of the twin sons of Chibuzo Ogbuagu, a former vice-chancellor of Abia State University, and Stella Ogbuagu, a professor of sociology who was best graduating student of the 1974 class at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). His twin brother is an engineer.

He 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.

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.

Dr Ogbuagu had earlier 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!” Ogbuagu 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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