Obama Reject Nigeria’s Request for Ebola Experimental Drug Zmapp
Hopes that the United States may send Zmapp, the experimental drug for Ebola virus treatment, appear dashed going by US President Barack Obama’s declaration that it was too early for West African countries hit by the outbreak to have it.
Obama made the US position known at a news conference at the end of an African summit on Wednesday. While he spoke at the event, the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, told journalists in Abuja that he had written the US Centre for Disease Control requesting for ZMapp.
On Thursday, Chukwu also told journalists that he had yet to receive a response from the centre.
But Obama, according to The Independent of London, said he lacked enough information to give the green light on distributing the drug, insisting the world must “let science guide us” on its use.
“I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful,” the US President said, adding that “Ebola virus both currently and in the past is controllable if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place.”
He said, “We’re focusing on the public health approach right now, but I will continue to seek information about what we’re learning about all the drugs going forward.”
The Cable News Network also reported on Thursday that Obama said, “The countries affected(by the virus) are the first to admit that what has happened is that their public health systems have been overwhelmed. They weren’t able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough.
“As a consequence, it spread more rapidly than has been typical with the periodic Ebola outbreaks that occurred previously.”
But Chukwu told journalists in Abuja on Thursday that he was not aware that the US had turned down requests for the experimental drug.
The minister, who inaugurated Defence Identification Centre at the Mogadishu Cantonment Abuja, said he was optimistic that Nigeria would get positive response from the US.
Chukwu explained that the seeming delay might be as a result of issues relating to the production and supply of the drugs.
He stated also that the data of the drugs were still being collected since it had been used on human beings.
Chukwu however added that for now, nobody was sure of the efficacy of the drug and whether its side effects would outweigh its benefits or not.
He said, “Well, we are waiting for a response from them (US); we have made the request but of course, we believe that they will respond to us.
“But we also know that; one, this is an experimental drug, some of the data required are now being collected because it is now being used on people.
“We are not completely sure yet of its efficacy; we are not yet completely sure if the side effects would outweigh its benefits, and then secondly, since it is an experimental drug, it means it has not been produced in commercial quantity.
“So obviously, given the demand all over the world, may be, they are having challenges about the supply.”
Chukwu commended the military for establishing the first Defence Identification Centre in Sub -Saharan Africa, which according to him, is in consonance with best practices in combat casualty identification.
He said the centre would be useful in the storage of the DNA samples of serving military personnel, identification of crash victims and victims of terror attacks.
Also at the event attended by the Minister of Defence, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, and all the service chiefs and heads of security agencies in the country, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, urged military and security personnel to utilise the centre by providing their blood samples.
Badeh said the centre would make it possible for all fallen military personnel to be identified and given a proper burial.
It was gathered that the military leadership decided to establish the centre after 46 soldiers of the 234 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Monguno, burnt to death in an accident.
According to him, the 46 soldiers were buried to the chagrin of their families who complained that their corpses were not identified.
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