africa

Nigeria risks exposure to ‘deadlier’ COVID-19 variants as only 1.8% fully vaccinated


• Lagos tops list with 708,835, Ebonyi leads from bottom with 31,951
• MTN Nigeria to implement vaccine mandate in country
• Sterling Bank partners Lagos to launch mass vaccination campaign
• Coronavirus disruptions caused surge in malaria deaths – WHO

Medical experts have warned that Nigeria is exposed to newer and deadlier variants of COVID-19 as only 3,774,203 Nigerians, that is 1.887 per cent of the country’s 200 million population and about three per cent of eligible persons fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The emergence of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern, Omicron, has reignited global discussions of vaccine distribution, virus mutation and immunity against new virus strains.

Some experts have suggested the emergence of a new strain could be a result of low levels of vaccine coverage in developing nations.

According to figures released on Sunday, by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), 7,075,114 persons were vaccinated with the first dose and only 3,774,203 are fully vaccinated with both doses of either AstraZeneca or Moderna.

A further breakdown of the figures showed Lagos tops the list with 708,835, followed by Ogun with 205,276 fully vaccinated residents, while Ebonyi leads from the bottom with 31,951, followed by Anambra with 39,701 persons.

National Chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Adewale Aderemi Oladigbolu, told The Guardian: “This is a call to action to Nigerian government, COVID-19 vaccination coverage in Nigeria is abysmal and we need to demolish all policies of government that limits access to vaccines.

“We should realise the UK’s ban on flights is a protective measure for her citizens in view of high virulence and the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in some countries of the world. Nigerian agencies and parastatals must love Nigerians well enough to take similar measures to protect her citizens.

“Also, it is not too late to search for indigenous medicines for COVID-19. Well-meaning Nigerians should fund research into herbal medicines through the faculties of pharmacies and other research institutions in Nigeria, we cannot leave the job for Government alone.”

CHAIRMAN of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, disclosed that Nigeria would have about 71 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by December ending. He lamented that vaccine uptake in the country was very low not because of vaccine shortage but due to vaccine hesitancy.

“The infection is more in urban areas and we are in a race with a smart virus. The virus is going ahead of us, so, we need to get our people vaccinated. Right now, we have over 32 million doses, we are expecting about 41 million doses and by the end of December we will have about 71 million doses of vaccines, but only seven million persons have been vaccinated and only over three million have received the second dose. That is not enough for us to achieve herd immunity.”

The PSC Chairman said Nigeria has invested in enough vaccines that can cover over 70 per cent of the population before the end of 2022, adding that these vaccines are safe and efficacious.

FOLLOWING MTN Group’s announcement of its intention to implement a vaccine mandate across its operations from January 2022, Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Karl Toriola, has voiced support and confirmed MTN Nigeria’s plan to implement it locally.

Toriola said the new policy further demonstrates MTN’s steadfast dedication to keeping its people and the communities “we work and live in safe and healthy. While there may still be some unknowns related to this pandemic, the science is clear – vaccines effectively prevent severe illness, hospitalisation and death. It is time for everyone who can, to get vaccinated to limit the spread of the virus and prevent further strains from developing.”

Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) advocate for vaccines – saying that they are an important measure to protect people. The global rollout of vaccinations since 2020 has clearly contributed to the containment and management of the virus in many countries.

In addition, MTN Nigeria, alongside the MTN Group, has added its voice to growing calls for global leaders to accelerate vaccine equity and lift unjust travel bans imposed on African countries.

MTN Group’s new vaccine policy is a measure to meet MTN’s legal obligations in regard to providing a safe workplace and shall be subject to risk assessment and local laws that apply to the MTN Group and its operating companies and subsidiaries.

The telecommunications firm said it also recognises the right of employees to apply to be exempted from the policy and/or refuse vaccination on certain clearly defined grounds.

ALSO, in a bid to ramp up the vaccination of people against the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic, Sterling Bank Plc has announced a partnership with the Lagos State Government to launch a vaccination campaign that will enable individuals to book for their vaccinations at private hospitals.

By visiting: sterling.ng/vax, individuals, as well as organisations are now able to book vaccinations for themselves and their workers respectively.

Speaking on the Private Sector Participation, the Commissioner of Health for Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, noted that this is an opportunity for every responsible citizen in Lagos to get vaccinated.

“In light of the impending new fourth wave and the emergence of new variants such as the Omicron, this is an opportunity for us to raise our immunity against the effects of the COVID-19 virus as vaccination remains our singular most effective defence against the severe complications of COVID.”

In a statement, the Divisional Head, Health and Education sectors, Mr Obinna Ukachukwu, said the bank remained committed to the prioritisation of health as one of its strategic pillars.

THE World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, said pandemic-related disruptions caused tens of thousands more malaria deaths in 2020, but added that urgent action had averted a far worse scenario.

In a fresh report, the UN health agency found that COVID-19 had reversed progress against the mosquito-borne disease, which was already plateauing before the pandemic struck.

There were an estimated 241 million malaria cases worldwide in 2020 — 14 million more than a year earlier — and the once-rapidly-falling death toll swelled to 627,000 last year, jumping 69,000 from 2019.

Approximately, two-thirds of those additional deaths were linked to disruptions in the provision of malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment during the pandemic and lockdown, the WHO said.
But it stressed that the situation “could have been far worse.

“Thanks to the hard work of public health agencies in malaria-affected countries, the worst projections of Coronavirus’ impact have not come to pass,” WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement.

“Now, we need to harness that same energy and commitment to reverse the setbacks caused by the pandemic and step up the pace of progress against this disease.”

Since the turn of the century, the world has made steady progress against malaria, with annual cases falling 27 per cent by 2017 and deaths plunging by over 50 per cent. But the numbers stalled in the years prior to the pandemic.

And the situation worsened in sub-Saharan Africa, where 95 per cent of all malaria cases and 96 per cent of all deaths occur, and where around 80 per cent of all deaths are among children under five.

“I think we are on the verge of a potential malaria crisis,” Dr Pedro Alonso, head of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, told reporters. “Not only are we not getting closer to elimination or eradication globally, but the problem is becoming worse in a substantial number of parts of Africa.”

But a number of countries are making progress. Between 2000 and 2020, 23 countries managed to go three consecutive years with no local transmission, and so far in 2021, China and El Salvador were certified malaria-free.

Another positive step is the development of the first malaria vaccine. Last week, the global vaccine alliance, Gavi, said it had approved nearly $156 million in funding to roll out the jabs to children in sub-Saharan Africa.





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