Nigerian Doctor, Onyema Ogbuagbu in Covid-19 Vaccine Breakthrough

22 November 2020

A Nigerian doctor, Dr. Onyema Ogbuagbu, is at the centre of the Pfizer-led research, development and trials that have culminated in a breakthrough for COVID-19 vaccines.

Pfizer, after the conclusion of its trials, recently announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective.

A few days after, Moderna also reported that its own version of the COVID-19 vaccine was 94 per cent effective.

The announcement by Pfizer, followed by Moderna, remains a game changer in the quest for COVID-19 vaccine.

Ogbuagbu, however, said he had been involved in the trials of the vaccines by Pfizer

An Associate Professor of Medicine and infectious disease specialist at Yale School of Medicine, Ogbuagbu, in an interview with ABC News, said he was super excited by the results, because having a very effective vaccine would help in achieving the so-called herd immunity.

A 2003 graduate of medicine from the University of Calabar, he noted that currently, there were insufficient doses of the vaccine for everyone at the moment, but contended that enough doses should be available by the first quarter of 2021.

He was of the belief that if a lot of people received the vaccine and were protected against the virus, it would go a long way in containing its spread, which has been ravaging the world since the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan, China.

Pfizer has said it would launch a pilot in four states in the United States, but there have been concerns as the vaccine needed to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 degree Celsius).

But Ogbuagbu has said preparations were being made already to surmount those challenges.

Ogbuagbu is in the clinician-educator track and Director of the HIV Clinical Trials programme of the Yale AIDS Programme, Section of Infectious Diseases of the Yale School of Medicine.

His profile obtained from the website of Yale School of Medicine revealed that in response to the COVID pandemic, he was the 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.

He is one of the twin sons of Prof. Chibuzo Ogbuagbu (former VC of ABSU and Abia SSG), whose parents had in New Haven CT, when they went for their doctoral programmes at Yale.

The Ogbuagbus were reported to have returned to Nigeria, where Onyeama studied medicine and then returned to Yale.

Ogbuagbu's responsibilities at Yale include educating and training medical students, residents and infectious diseases fellows in various capacities in inpatient and outpatient settings; and through structured course work and other teaching sessions.

As a faculty of the HIV training track of the Yale-Internal Medicine primary care programme and for over six years as a faculty of the Human Resources for Health program in Rwanda, he has extensive experience with curriculum development, structuring of residency training programmes, and mentoring residents and faculty.

In Rwanda, specifically, he mentored medical residents and junior faculty in quality improvement and clinical research projects that were locally relevant and addressing important infectious diseases-related problems (particularly HIV/AIDS and antimicrobial resistance).

In addition, Ogbuagbu has facilitated meaningful educational and research collaborations between faculty and trainees across institutions.

As the programme director of World Bank and HRSA-funded efforts supporting the Liberia College of Physicians and surgeons (LCPS)-run Internal medicine residency training programme, he oversaw the selection and deployment of faculty to Liberia, and was responsible for educational programmes and activities aimed at strengthening the residency training programme.

Overall, his expertise and collective experiences to date had seen him to design and run successful projects around capacity building in low-resource settings, including developing and implementing innovative and robust medical training and research programmes for faculty, fellows, residents and students.

For five years running, he has been the director of the Yale AIDS Programme, HIV clinical trials programme, and a principal investigator on numerous pharmacokinetic, phase 2 and 3 safety and efficacy trials of novel antiviral compounds (HIV).

More recently, given the alarming rate of new infections among men who have sex with men (MSM), he had focused on HIV prevention trials including being a co-principal investigator on a Yale CIRA funded project, which has supported the formation of a cohort of men, who have sex with men and are at high risk for HIV and are engaged in HIV PrEP services in order to study the impact of substance use on retention in care and adherence to PrEP.

Ogbuagbu is also a lead investigator on the international DISCOVER trial evaluating TAF/FTC vs TDF/FTC for HIV prevention among MSM and transgender women.

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