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COVID-19: Spike in Europe threatens vaccine donations to Nigeria, others –Medical experts

The World Health Organisation sounded the alarm last week, saying that a fourth wave of COVID-19 pandemic is about to engulf the world. There may not be anything new in the latest warning as WHO has repeatedly said that the epidemic is far from over and must be managed as an emergency. The worry however, is how this latest warning will affect Nigeria and the other African countries. This is the fulcrum of this report by Isioma Madike and Regina Otokpa

Almost two years into the pandemic, COVID-19 infections, according to reports, are surging in Europe again. The resurgence has once again reawakened the fear across the globe even as the World Health Organisation (WHO’s) director for Europe, Hans Kluge, last week warned that all countries in Europe were facing “a real threat of the virus or already fighting it”. He is worried that the continent has remained “the epicentre” of the pandemic once again.

Kluge, however, is not the only one worried about this renewed threat of the virus. Some Nigerian medical experts have been having sleepless nights also as they fear that the spike in Europe may threaten vaccine availability in Nigeria and other African countries as the continent depended majorly on donations from advanced countries of the world. Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Lagos Chairman on COVID-19, Dr. Japhet Olugbogi, is one of those who are worried about Nigeria and other African countries as he said they may not be left out of any imminent fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He believes that the threat is real because of travels, social activities and the economy that bring people of the world together. To him, no country is actually safe, whether fully vaccinated or almost fully vaccinated. Olugbogi said the reality is that it will surely limit the number of vaccines Nigeria and other African countries will be getting or how fast and how well the rollout of vaccines in this part of the world would be. He said: “It’s going to be a big problem for the African continent because we don’t make the vaccines and we don’t have it as we should here.

Don’t forget that we depend on donations since it’s very expensive and those countries donating would normally want to make sure their people get and are safe first. It’s a natural thing to do even though WHO frowns at that. In the meantime, we may have to make do with what we have here.

“This is the reason why Africa seems not to be progressing when it comes to vaccination because we don’t have the vaccines. We usually wait until we receive donations from these other countries. Now that they are ravaged by the pandemic, it’s a huge problem for us in the third world countries. They would want to have the vaccines to themselves probably because they would want to give it to their people first.

Like I said, it’s a natural way to do things, especially in the circumstances that we now find ourselves. “So, you can see why there is a limit to what they can do for Africa. Sadly, we don’t have the resources to match our demands here and what the Europeans are doing.

But of course that’s against what WHO advised and against public health physicians like us have advised in the recent past. We all need to be vaccinated at the same time and that way we will limit the emergence of new variants but unfortunately, that’s not what is happening now and that is why it looks like the fourth wave is imminent here.

“However, people should know that the vaccination is working. What happens is that a lot of people are vaccinated, others are not. The virus itself mutates rapidly. So, we have the mutated virus in so many places and in so many countries. In that process, it escapes the ability of vaccinations to control them.

Let us not forget that the vaccines were manufactured before the new variants that we now see today. New variants are likely to not be able to be controlled by these vaccines. But the scientists are not sleeping over this.” Another public health expert, Prof. Bayo Onajole, has also said that the report of the resurgence of COVID-19 infection is not anything new because, according to him, the virus has been known to be rapidly changing.

Since the first advent in 2019/2020, he said, we have had several serotypes that have come. Be that as it may, the vaccines against the COVID-19 virus still has the elements that can stimulate and involves the body to produce antibodies, and that is why, he said, quite a number of cases of the new serotypes are not as severe or the mortality is not as high as what was recorded when the virus first came.

“Again, it will affect us because we depended on donations primarily, and because of the many problems confronting Nigeria and the other third world countries, they may not be able to fund the purchase of vaccines as they ordinarily would have wanted to. For us, that is a big issue,” he said. President, National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr. Godiya Ishaya, sees the new spike of COVID-19 in Europe as unfortunate, which he said would have huge health and economic implications. For health, Ishaya said, there’s going to be a strain omanpower and resources as during the first wave.

He also said at the economic front, huge sums will have to be committed to prevention efforts and treatment of patients. Concerning vaccines, the NARD president said those countries affected will mop up the vaccines in circulation and that such will affect the availability of these vaccines to developing countries like Nigeria that depend essentially on donations from them.

He said: “This is a challenge to Africa. We will need to step up research efforts to develop our vaccines so that we can be self-reliant. We also need to prepare for a possible new spike because these spikes usually begin from there and spread across the world, especially to countries that are not prepared adequately to combat the pandemic.” Also, the National Coordinator Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), Dr. Aminu Magashi, said though what is happening in Europe at present is of great concern to Nigeria and the rest of Africa, that the country has enough vaccines to vaccinate up to 40 million population as it stands now.

“We are still below 10 million vaccinations. We also got a World Bank facility of USD400 million to acquire vaccines,” he added. Prof. Olufemi Babalola, President, Guild of Medical Directors, in his reaction has described the pandemic fourth wave in Europe as very unfortunate. It had been thought, according to him, that with the advent of the vaccines, the worst of the pandemic was over; but apparently not. Though he said the reasons for the new development are not far-fetched. He said: “This could be as a result of the emergence of new variants of concern. Waning antibody levels after vaccination could also be a cause. Antibody levels fall off by up to only 30 per cent of initial levels by day 70. That is why boosters are now being given. The vaccine is effective but does not last as long as one would like.

“There is also the failure to utilise proven interventions. In particular, I refer to the failure to use Ivermectin based treatment and prophylaxis, especially in advanced countries. Ivermectin has been effectively used in India and several South American countries, yet the Europeans are not convinced.

Recently it was used in Japan, and now their COVID cases are near zero levels. We can solve this problem if we want to.” In like manner, the executive secretary of the Nigerian Academy of Science and a past chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Dr. Doyin Odubanjo, said that Nigerians should prepare for some more cases over the coming holidays because of travelling. Many, he said, will come from Europe and go there for holidays too and may be infected. “We have to be strict about ensuring our protocols are followed by travellers and increase health education activities so people are aware of what may happen and be more careful about following the non-pharmaceutical interventions. Also, educate intensively about the usefulness of the vaccines so that more may be vaccinated.

“The current surge in Europe shows that vaccines alone will not solve the problem and that the disease is likely to become endemic in many places. So, people will have to learn to live with it. We should be careful about mandating vaccination as it is based on an expected outcome that seems not so in places that have much higher vaccination rates. However, we should encourage people to be vaccinated – while it may not be as effective in preventing transmission, it does reduce the chance of dying from the disease.”

Meanwhile, a Professor of Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Virology at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, Maduike Ezeibe, has said that the recurrence of COVID-19 in persons who recovered from the disease within such short intervals is an indication that the pandemic cannot be controlled by vaccination. “This is not strange. The virus is known for fast mutation. It changes to forms vaccines can no longer inhibit and apart from humans it has many animals as hosts. If vaccination was working the infection rate would have started declining in the advanced countries. What the world needs is a medicine that can achieve quick cure. Such medicine must be made to inhibit a marker the virus cannot change. “We already have such medicine. The Medicinal synthetic Aluminum magnesium silicate attaches to electrical charges on any disease-agent that has electrical charges. SARS Cov 2 virus, which causes COVID-19, has positive charges while infected cells are negatively charged. No virus can change its charges. Even if that is possible there are only two possible charges (negative and positive). Whichever charge a virus has or changes to MSAMS has the opposite. The virus is at least 60nm in size while MSAMS’ molecules are made of Nanoparticles that are over 60 times smaller (0.96nm).”

 

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