COVID-19 vaccines: Right step, but emphasis high risk groups —Experts

A consultant public health physician/epidemiologist and a member of the Lagos State COVID-19 Response Team, Professor Akin Osibogun, says that the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)’s emergency approval of Oxford, the AstraZeneca vaccine is a right step to prevent individuals from developing severe illness and  will cut Nigeria’s spending on required intensive care unit services.

Professor Osibogun, who declared that this now means the vaccine can be legally imported into the country and administered to Nigerians, however, said NAFDAC will need to continue to monitor the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

The expert, who stated that he supports the use of the vaccine in Nigeria said although a vaccinated person can still transmit COVID-19, vaccinated people are not likely to ever get the severe illness.

Professor Osibogun, however, said the policy thrust of the vaccination exercise should be to use the vaccine to prevent severe illness in the country.

According to him, while the AstraZeneca vaccine will contribute to national COVID-19 control strategy, it may not help to attain herd immunity as it is currently not recommended for people below 18 years, a group that constitutes some 45 per cent of the Nigerian population.

The expert said: “For herd immunity, you need to ensure that at least 70 per cent are vaccinated. We don’t have enough vaccine to vaccinate 55 per cent of Nigeria’s 200 million, which forms an age group above 18 years. We may not have the money to buy vaccine for 100million people, but we can buy what we can afford and then use it to target those who are likely to develop severe illness.

“This includes those who are above 60, the frontline health workers, those with diabetes, hypertension and renal problems. So, if you immunize those ones, then you are not likely to get severe illnesses in them, you will not need intensive care unit services and so on, that should be the strategy,”

Director-General, Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, Prof. Babatunde Salako said the implication is that the Federal Government could negotiate to purchase the vaccine for use in the country.

Professor David Olaleye, a virologist at the University of Ibadan said it will be good for the scientific community and the general public to be told NAFDAC’s criteria for the approved AstraZeneca vaccine.

Olaleye said although the use of the vaccine is a good starting point to mitigate the epidemic, no vaccine is yet 100 per cent effective because daily the virus is novel, mutating daily and require to be constantly monitored.

He, however, declared that since Nigeria is not producing any of the vaccines but will be buying, the country only needs to pick the best option available even as everyone is made to adhere to personal protective measures established to be effective against COVID-19.

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