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Purported ‘Cures’ Found For COVID-19

On the 20th of April 2020, the Malagasy President, Andry Rajoelina, announced that the largest African-Island-country has found a cure to COVID-19. 

The announcement was made at a press briefing on national television where the president urged the world to support his country’s discovery as an effective cure for COVID-19, claiming the efficacy and safety had been tested and deemed fit.

Rajoelina sips CVO during the launch
Rajoelina sips CVO during the launch
Cross section of CVO
Cross section of CVO

The discovery, COVID-Organics (CVO) (an artemisia based mixture) was said to have been produced by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research. The announcement sparked controversy across the world with the majority of Africans favouring it. The favour it received from the African populace at the time was obviously as a result of encouraging statistics of the virus in Madagascar at the time––46 active cases, 82 recoveries with no deaths––at a time when other countries were counting the number of cases and fatalities in hundreds. 

Rajoelina tweet

President Andry Rajoelina tweeted in French: “Depuis sa création par le Pr Ratsimamanga, l’IMRA a développé + de 50 produits en alliant médecine traditionnelle & sciences modernes. White heavy check markCovid-Organics, remède traditionnel amélioré à base d’artemisia & de plantes endémiques, curatif & préventif contre le #Covid19, est lancé !” The tweet literally translates to “Since its creation by Prof. Ratsimamanga, IMRA has developed + 50 products in traditional medicine & modern sciences. White heavy check mark Covid-Organics, traditionally improved remedy based on artemisia & endemic plants, curative & preventive against #Covid19, is launched!” in English, according to Google Translate. 

On the 16th of May, President Buhari received CVO from the Guinea Bissau President, Umaru Sissoco Embalo, who was in Nigeria on an official visit.

Buhari and Sissoco during the visit

Luckily for Nigeria, the Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire said the plant––Artemisia annua from which the Malagasy drug was produced––was also grown in Nigeria. However, on the 23rd of July, the Minister admitted during the Presidential Task Force (PTF) COVID-19 Briefing that there was no evidence to show that the imported drug could cure the Coronavirus disease.

Criticisms of the “drug” prompted many African countries who initially subscribed to it to further subject the mixture to local screening before administering it on patients. President Buhari of Nigeria at the time tweeted: “My position regarding all herbal or traditional medicines is that any such formulations should be sent to the statutory regulators for thorough scientific verification. We will not put anything to use in Nigeria without the endorsement of our regulatory institutions.”

Buhari’s tweet

On the 6th of May, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Health Organization (WAHO) denied endorsing the CVO. A press release made available to the effect read in part: “We are aware that several claims of a Covid-19 cure has been made in different parts of the world but we can only support and endorse products that have shown to be effective through scientific study. For this reason, WAHO is collaborating with relevant partners including WHO, Africa CDC, national, regional and international research consortia to promote scientific research for a cure. We are working with Member States on some of the medications available for clinical trials and for use on a compassionate basis in selected severe cases. Some of the traditional medicine centres of Excellence in the ECOWAS region and also currently investigating products of potential efficacy.”

ECOWAS and WAHO press release

Early in July, the Malagasy authorities were forced to impose movement restrictions on the nation’s capital in an attempt to stem the rising tide of the spread of the virus. This move laid credence to the failure of the earlier celebrated solution. By the end of July, the hospitals in the country were already struggling to cope with the number of cases.

Similarly, on the 11th of August, news rented the international space of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has announced the registration of a vaccine against the Coronavirus. Putin, like Rajoelina, expressed confidence in the efficiency of the vaccine, claiming one of his daughters had also been vaccinated, probably to prove the vaccine’s efficacy. The vaccine––Sputnik V, named after a Satellite that was first launched into space in 1957––is said to work effectively, form stable immunity and pass all necessary inspections according to the Russian President. Just like CVO, international controversies also trailed the new vaccine.

Russia’s announcement of COVID-19 vaccine

On Friday, 4th September, Nigerian Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire received the Sputnik V from the Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexey Shebarshin. Shebarshin also provided Nigeria with a guidance manual on how the vaccine was made, to help Nigeria in conducting further research and studies on it. The last has still not been heard of Sputnik V as its efficacy or otherwise still remains largely unknown.

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