As Nigeria prepares to receive its first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines, two scientists have cautioned the Federal Government against a mass COVID-19 vaccination plan.
Speaking against the background of the announcement by Health Minister Osagie Ehanire that the Federal Government planned to acquire vaccines worth N400 billion, an immunologist, Professor Ganiyu Arinola and a virologist, Dr. Olubusuyi Adewumi, asked government to thread with caution on the matter.
They both spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan.
Arinola from the University of Ibadan said rolling out a mass nationwide vaccine campaign might not be the best use of resources for a resource-poor country like Nigeria.
He said that while no amount of investment on health was a waste,” it is reasonable to spend wisely in this time of economic recession”.
The immunologist said mass vaccination alone would not halt the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, adding that the available vaccines do not confer lifelong immunity against the virus.
“The mere availability of COVID-19 vaccine is insufficient to give broad immunological protection.
“Efficient vaccines must be safe with little side effects, inexpensive for the target population and widely effective across gender and wide geographical ranges,” he said.
In terms of its efficacy, Arinola still urged a cautious approach by the authorities.
“This is not a hundred per cent true of current COVID-19 vaccines, showing that there is room for improvement on them.
‘For instance, re-infection is likely because existing vaccines stimulate antibody production which may wane with time.
“As of now, it will be advisable to be cautious of the use of current COVID-19 vaccines because too many facts are still emerging on the vaccines.
“In low-resource country like Nigeria, certain individuals will be unqualified for COVID-19 vaccination due to age, immunocompromise status, socio-economic status and other preexisting medical conditions,” he added.
Arinola said Nigeria should come up with its own strategy to end the pandemic by adopting its own unique method of fighting the virus.
His words: “Low-cost, evidence-based and integrated control strategies are primarily needed in the country.
“In low resource setting like ours, there is need to ensure access to reliable diagnosis in order to determine the true burden of disease in the community.
“A combination of effective vaccination, treatment, and good hygienic practices will guarantee enhanced protection against COVID-19.”
For his part, Dr. Olubusuyi Adewumi, of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, said decisions on COVID-19 vaccination must be guided by scientific evidence.
Adewumi, who noted that the country had not been as hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic as other countries, said that mass vaccination may not be the best strategy for Nigeria.
“However, the question is how did we arrive at such a decision? Was it guided by scientific findings? Can we afford it,” he queried?
He added that such monumental decisions must be well thought out and not based on misplaced sentiment.
Nigeria had 88,587 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,294 deaths as of yesterday, Saturday.