Nigeria celebrates scientist in Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine breakthrough

Onyema Ogbuagu

Dr Onyema Ogbuagu of Yale University.

Photo credit: Courtesy

Nigerians are celebrating the work of its scientist involved in a Covid-19 vaccine breakthrough at American pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

The American firm revealed last week that the vaccine it developed was 94.5 per cent effective, signalling a breakthrough in attempts to contain the pandemic.

It was known last week that Dr Onyema Ogbuagu of Yale University is one of the hands involved in developing the vaccine.

Dr Ogbuagu, a specialist in infectious diseases, graduated from the University of Calabar Medical School in Nigeria in 2003 and is now affiliated to the Midstate Medical Centre and Yale New Haven Hospital in the US. 

After his name was revealed last week, there has been excitement on social media praising the Nigerian scientist as a hero. Even the US Mission in Nigeria commented on his prowess, saying he represented the good contributions by many Nigerians in the US.

“Nigerians contribute to the world in so many ways. Our hats off to Dr Onyema Ogbuagu at Yale who helped develop a Covid-19 vaccine,” said a statement from the US Embassy in Nigeria.

Mrs Lauretta Onochie, the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media, noted that Ogbuagu and his twin brother, Chibuzo, were part of the thousands of successful youths she taught in primary school.

Onochie said Ogbuagu and Chibuzo, and other students she taught, have made her really proud of her work.

Ogbuagu said the Pfizer vaccine could be “the beginning of the end of the pandemic”.

“The vaccine would help us achieve immunity,” he told ABC News last week.

“This could be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. Preparations are made both on the government end and the distribution network, including Pfizer who are working to have the vaccine stored at low temperature,” he said.

The Covid-19 pandemic has unsettled the world, crippling economies, causing hardships to people and leading to the death of more than 1.3 million people.

Pfizer and BioNTech announced that the first vaccine they developed against Covid-19 prevented 94.5 per cent of infections among 43,500 people in six countries.

Pfizer reported that it would be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of 2020, and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.

In an exchange with Ogbuagu, Onochie tweeted: “You, Chibuzo and the rest have made me really proud. My reward as a teacher and later as a lecturer is right here on earth seeing the way you all have turned out brilliantly. I’m extremely proud of you.”

In Ogbuagu’s response to Onoche, he said: “Amazing! Nice to see you again virtually! I do fondly remember those days in primary school and how much we enjoyed your teaching.”

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state also commended Ogbuagu as an indigene of Abia in South East Nigeria for being the ``leading light’’ on the newly found vaccine.

“I am not surprised that this twin son of Prof Chibuzo Ogbuagu, a former Vice-Chancellor of Abia State University, Uturu (ABSU) and a former Secretary to Abia State Government (SSG), was among those who led the team that discovered the now celebrated vaccine which will certainly save millions of lives especially now that a second wave of the disease is already ravaging parts of the world.

Ikpeazu said he would continue to celebrate such rare feats achieved by people of Abia state everywhere to serve as a motivation for others to embrace dedication and thrive in whatever lawful field of endeavour they choose in life.

Ogbuagu, a twin whose second, Chibuzo, is an engineer, are children of Prof Chibuzo Ogbuagu, a former Vice-Chancellor of Abia State University, and Stella Ogbuagu, a professor of sociology.

After graduating in medicine at the University of Calabar, he had his internship at the Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki in Nigeria, before he proceeded for another internship at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (Elmhurst), New York.

He had six years’ working experience in a faculty of the human resources for health programme in Rwanda addressing important infectious diseases-related problems (particularly HIV/Aids and anti-microbial resistance).

He was also the programme director of the World Bank and HRSA-funded efforts supporting the Liberia College of Physicians and Surgeons (LCPS)–run internal medicine residency training programme, where he oversaw the selection and deployment of faculty to Liberia.

He worked for five years as director of the Yale HIV clinical trials programme, and a principal investigator on numerous pharmacokinetics.

In 2019, Ogbuagu was awarded the Gerald H. Friedland award for outstanding international research.

 In 2020, he emerged as a nominee for Charles W. Bohmfalk Award in Clinical Science, Yale University School of Medicine


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